Retired Army chaplain recalls post-Holocaust era in Germany
ABILENE, Texas - The Dachau Concentration Camp was liberated 72 years ago this week, and McMurry University Professor Bill Libby met scores of Holocaust survivors when he was stationed there almost two decades later.
Libby, a retired Army Chaplain of 30 years, spoke to KTXS on Monday for Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Dachau was the first concentration camp opened in Nazi Germany. At the time, it was a political prison for suspected communists, socialists, and Protestant and Roman Catholic clergymen.
Following liberation, it became a holding place for prisoners of war, Russians, Poles, and Jews who were displaced by the war. They were living in prisoner barracks and the U.S. occupants were in former Nazi barracks, still adorned with war-time equipment. Much of that equipment now fills museums around the world.
Bill Libby got to know many of the survivors still living in the camp in the years after it was liberated. The mission of the Army at the time was to aid in the transition of Germany from Nazi rule to a post-war era and to monitor Soviet activity occupying East Germany.
"As I wandered through the building area, there were people that knew who I was because of my uniform and the cross that I was wearing on my uniform. They would invite me to stop to have a cup of coffee, or a cup of tea, or a piece of bread," Libby said.
Libby recalled seeing one of the tattoos used by Nazis to identify prisoners in concentration camps. He said he met a gentleman who rolled up his sleeve to reveal the tattoo on his arm. "That was the first tattoo that I had ever seen and that would have been in 1962 and he was still alive," Libby said.
Though the war was over, survivors continued to die due to the conditions and hardships in the camp.
"I had services for those survivors. That was a very moving experience to have to say to their family members, 'They're dead, and we give them back to God now,'" Libby said.
Holocaust Remembrance Day was organized to recount and learn about the tragedies which claimed the lives of more than 6 million people.
"It is important that we remember that. Honor those who are gone, but continue to teach our young people so it doesn't happen again," Libby said.