"Wranglers" remember the Holocaust
April 21, 2010
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq - Soldiers of the 15th Special Troops Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), had a Holocaust Days of Remembrance observation to reflect on the event and lessons learned from it in the Morale Welfare and Recreation tent here, April 16.
The event included a reading of the history of the Holocaust, an explanation of why it is important to remember it, a slideshow, and words from Jewish guest speaker Sgt. Randy Bare, a Biloxi, Miss., native and squad leader for the 15th Sust. Bde.'s Personal Security Detachment.
"Holocaust is a word of Greek origin meaning 'sacrifice by fire,'" said Sgt. Elizabeth Gaytan, 15th STB personnel clerk and Los Angeles native as she explained the history of the event to the audience.
She told them about the Nazi party coming to power in Germany in 1933 and later persecuting those they considered inferior such as Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Russians, Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, the disabled and homosexuals. Jews were the regime's primary target for Hitler's "Final Solution."
"By 1945, the Germans and their collaborators killed nearly two out of every three European Jews," Gaytan said.
She talked about how Jews who were unable to flee were taken from their homes and brought to concentration camps or remote locations to be shot, gassed, or burned alive. A small portion lived on as slaves to the Nazis. The persecution and genocide continued until May 7, 1945, when Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered to allied forces.
Bare, whose great-great grandparents fled to the U.S. during this time, elaborated on the hardships the Jews endured during that part of history and how he personally dealt with others' prejudice over time.
Bare explained it made him uncomfortable as a young boy to be teased about not celebrating Christmas or Easter and how as an infantryman in the Marines he had one experience in which a person drew a swastika on his door.
"When I think I've had it hard - I don't even compare to what happened to my great-grandparents," he said.
He explained how his great aunt and her family were captured by Nazis after multiple attempts to flee and disappeared into a ghetto in Poland.
"I like to think they escaped like my great-great grandparents to the United States," Bare said. "In reality, this probably didn't happen."
Bare talked about how in addition to killing Jews, some were subject to medical testing like that done by the Nazi Dr. Joseph Mangele. Bare read an account by Jewish Auschwitz inmate Vera Alexander about tests done on a pair of very young Romani twins.
"One day, Mengele took them away. When they returned, they were in a terrible state - they had been sewn together, back to back, like Siamese twins. Their wounds were infected and oozing pus. They screamed day and night. Then their parents - I remember the mother's name was Stella - managed to get some morphine and they killed the children in order to end their suffering," Bare said, reading Alexander's account.
Bare described other events illustrating the suffering endured by the Jews during the Holocaust, which many Jews refer to as Shoah, a Hebrew word meaning calamity, Bare explained.
Bare also emphasized that although Jews were the main focus of Nazi persecution and killing, other groups were also victimized. In fact, he said, between 11 and 17 million people were killed, including 6 million Jews, in the genocide.
Bare said that it was important to remember the Holocaust because as time goes on, there are fewer survivors left to tell their story and he hoped the message didn't fall on deaf ears.