Bernard Mellman (22 minutes)
Bernie Mellman served with the US Army in Europe in 1945 and 1946. In April 1945 his battalion, the 542nd Field Artillery, assisted in the liberation of the concentration camp at Dachau. He was twenty years old, and like most American soldiers, had no idea that the death camps existed — even though he was Jewish. It was, he remembers, “a soul-wrenching experience for me. . . . I can still see . . . starved, emaciated inmates. . . . I remember seeing those ovens and smelling the stench of dead bodies.” A few days later Bernie took part in the capture of nearby Munich. He and his wife Beverly lived in Dayton until recently moving to Florida.
1. How would an experience like Bernie’s change you?
2. Unlike most other soldiers who stumbled into concentration camps, Bernie was Jewish. How do you think this made his experience different from that of a non-Jewish soldier?
3. If you had been a US government official during the war, and had known about the camps, would you have made the information public? Why or why not?
4. In your own life, have you had the experience of discovering something painful and shocking? Was it something you might have prevented, had you known about it? Did you feel guilty, or angry, or both?
Link to Youtube video