Gabriel Vacca


Major Vacca was a fighter pilot whose squadron was stationed at a captured base in Weimar just before the end of the war. He was one of the first Americans to see Buchenwald when it was liberated, and he witnessed a famous event: hundreds of civilians from Weimar were rounded up and brought to see the death camp. Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Gabe joined the army in 1941 and worked as an aircraft mechanic. He then went to flight school and was trained as a fighter pilot, sent to England, and then to France after the Normandy invasion. His 406th Fighter Group provided air support for the Third Army. After the war, he visited Israel six times and developed a strong interest in Jewish history and culture. He died in 1999, but his wife still lives in Riverside.

Buchenwald was established in July 1937. It became the largest death camp in Germany and is still maintained as a memorial by the German government. It is located in Upper Saxony, not far from Nuremberg. Between 60,000 and 65,000 people lost their lives there.