A Holocaust survivor recently had the chance to salute a U.S. soldier who had liberated him from a Nazi concentration camp seven decades ago.
Joshua Kaufman was at the Dachau death camp when American soldiers found the facility and rescued the prisoners. Daniel Gillespie, a machine gun operator in the 42nd Rainbow Division, walked into block 11 and first laid his eyes on Kaufman, a Hungarian Jew. Kaufman and several others had been hiding in a latrine, but emerged when they realized the boot steps they heard belonged to Americans soldiers, not Nazi guards.
“When the Americans smashed in the door, my heart did somersaults,” Kaufman said.
Kaufman added that had it not been for the American soldiers, it would have been easier to die than continue living in Dachau. According to the Holocaust survivor, prisoners were forced to carry 100-pound blocks of cement. Whoever fell to the ground was immediately shot.
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After Gillespie helped Kaufman into the sunlight, the two separated and thought they’d never meet again. Unbeknownst to the two men, they were living within one hour of each other when a German documentary crew searched them out and planned a reunion.
The meeting was arranged at Huntington Beach in California, where an overwhelmed Kaufman saluted his rescuer. Kaufman kissed Gillespie’s hand, then finally fell to his knees and thanked Gillespie for saving him.
“I have wanted to do this for 70 years,” Kaufman said. “I love you, I love you so much.”
Both men said they were humbled by their meeting so many years after the Nazi regime was crushed.