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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota Remembers the Holocaust

Minnesota National Guard SAINT PAUL, Minn - The Minnesota's Observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day event left few empty seats in the capitol rotunda Jan 15  Steve Hunegs, executive director of The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas expressed that he was "proud to partner with the Minnesota National Guard to bring together liberators and the liberated"  Among presenters was honored guest retired Col Edward Shames, a World War II veteran from the 101st Airborne, Easy Company, who spoke about his experience as a liberator of Dachau concentration camp; and Eva Gross, a holocaust survivor from Minnesota

During opening comments, Rep Paul Thissen, speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, asserted, "These are the darkest days in our shared history and it reminds me of the progress we have made and the work we have yet to do"

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie related, "It takes putting our lives on the line in public service to make sure this never happens again!"

The event echoed a resounding theme of understanding and the importance of resiliency

Army Col Eric Ahlness, of the Minnesota National Guard, prefaced Shames as a national treasure "His participation in the famous 'Band of Brothers,' highlights the service and sacrifice of that unit and so many other dedicated Service members from World War II and the many others that have served in uniform since that momentous conflict"

Shames recollected briefly the horror of when he had first arrived at Lansberg Prison, which was also used for war crimes "There were skeletons in rags- scarecrows I thought it was the worst site I had ever seen, until later " Shames was then the first American officer in Dauchau and expressed that, "What I saw that night I will never forget for the rest of my life We couldn't believe our eyes" He hesitantly mentioned the smell, which came from rail cars full of dead bodies and that most of those who were alive could not walk or talk

2013 Holocaust Remembrance Day, Minnesota State Capital
- Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

For a moment he painted a picture of one individual they found who was able to tell his story The man, whose entire family had been killed, had been a baker for the guards The baker himself had been forbidden to eat any of the goods he produced by penalty of death

Shames recalled looking over the camp and wondered how humans could treat other humans like that and was astonished "Townspeople worked there and still went to church on Sundays"

Gross, offered her reflections and told of how, together with her mother, she survived deportation from their small Hungarian town, six concentration camps including Auschwitz, forced labor, death marches and finally liberation Among attendees was David Feiler, a son of a holocaust survivor who was liberated from Dauchau He was impressed with how individuals like his father "could have been trapped in that memory, but they had a spirit about them to be able to build their lives here and be part of the community!"

The event helped to recognize the unique diversity of people within the Twin Cities, who rise above expectations Local photographer David Sherman honored local holocaust survivors by presenting an exhibit named "A Transfer of Memory," in the north corridor of the Rotunda The collection is described as a story of survival containing luck, determination, devotion and defying exceedingly difficult circumstances Sherman acknowledged that "Liberators are why we have survivors and that can't be spoken of enough It is important these stories are remembered" Army Staff Sgt Erandi Caviness, of the Minnesota National Guard, who attended the event put it best, "We can do anything when we realize how far we have come"

Jan 15, 2013
By Air Force Staff Sgt Jenny Rechtfertig
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

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