Special to the JTA the Bond Between Concentration Camp Survivors and Liberator

The powerful bond between concentration camp survivor and liberator added a poignant dimension to the customary courtesy call of Israel’s new Consul General in New York to the Governor of New York.

Consul General Naphtalie Lavie, a survivor of Buchenwald concentration camp, expressed his deepest personal gratitude to Governor Hugh Carey, a former U.S. Army major who was one of the leaders of the forces that liberated Nordhausen. This satellite slave labor camp was staffed in part by Buchenwald inmates.

Lavie told Carey that he clearly remembers the moment of his liberation, when three American soldiers arrived at Buchenwald in a jeep, “I felt reborn,” he said. “An infant can’t remember being born, but an adult can.”

Lavie, then a teenager, had been routed out of Buchenwald with other Jewish prisoners in early April, 1945. During a death march toward Theresienstadt, which few survived, he escaped and returned to Buchenwald to save his seven-year-year-old brother. The child had been hidden with Soviet Prisoners of War in a protected area.

RECALLS THE DAY

On April II, 1945, the same day that Lavie and his brother were rescued from Buchenwald by American troops, Carey and the men of the 104th Timberwolf Division broke into Nordhausen. Carey, who was a major in the division’s 415th Regiment, says of that day:

“I saw the dead and the near dead. I personally witnessed the deaths, the bodies piled up like cordwood, the starvation and depravation. I saw the cruelty and barbarism that was evidence of the systematic destruction of life.”

Buchenwald was just outside of Weimar, and Nordhausen slave labor camp was about 100 miles west of Leipzig. One of 2,000 satellite camps that the Nazis set up to augment their 22 main concentration and death camps, Nordhausen was the depository for slaves found unfit to work in the underground factories manufacturing V-I and V-2 bombs at Dora, in the Harz Mountains.

After the Nordhausen operation, Carey was involved in freeing 50,000 prisoners on a death march near the Elbe River — a march such as the one from which Lavie escaped. Carey was released from active duty as a Lieutenant Colonel with a Bronze Star, Croix de Guerre with Silver Star, and Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and subsequently promoted to full colonel.

RETURNED TO HELP IMMIGRATION

Lavie’s younger brother, Yisrael Lau (Lavie’s name before he Hebraized it), is now Chief Rabbi of Netanya. Lavie went to Palestine after his liberation, but returned for a while to Europe in the late 1940′s as an agent of the Mossad I’Aliyah Bet, (agency for “illegal” immigration to British Palestine). He had been a Zionist in Pietrokow, Poland, before World War II. His father, Rabbi Moshe Haim Lau, was both a leader of Polish Orthodoxy and a member of Poalei Aguda, the Zionist wing of the Orthodox movement.

Prior to his appointment as Consul General, Lavie was for II years a high level government spokesman, for Moshe Dayan and then Shimon Peres in the Defense Ministry, and then for the Foreign Ministry.

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