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The KZ camp Buchenwald, May, 1945. A little Jewish boy, Joseph Schleifstein, sits on a United Nations Refugee Relief Agency truck. He miraculously survived the horrors of the Holocaust and was four years old when American troops liberated Buchenwald in 1945. 

A few weeks before, on April 16, 1945, the legendary CBS reporter Edward R. Murrow described the scene at Buchenwald when he entered the camp after liberation:

There surged around me an evil-smelling stink, men and boys reached out to touch me. They were in rags and the remnants of uniforms. Death already had marked many of them, but they were smiling with their eyes. I looked out over the mass of men to the green fields beyond, where well-fed Germans were ploughing ... In another part of the camp they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only 6 years old. One rolled up his sleeves, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. They will carry them till they die. I could see their ribs through their thin shirts ...

Joseph Schleifstein was born in Sandomierz, Poland, on March 7, 1941, as the son of Israel and Esther Schleifstein. He was 2 years old when he and his parents were deported to the Buchenwald KZ camp in 1943. When they arrived at the Buchenwald railhead older people and children were immediately ordered to the left - gas chambers and death, younger people to the right - slave work but life. 

In the general confusion of lining up, Joseph`s father found a large sack and - with a stern warning to keep absolutely quiet - he placed his two-year-old son in it. With the help of other inmates he miraculously managed to hide his child from the Nazi officers until the U.S. army liberated the KZ camp on April 12, 1945.

Shortly afterwards the famous photograph was taken - little Joseph sitting on the running board of a United Nations truck. He later recalled those weeks, no more hiding, enough food, and especially all the rides the Americans gave him on their tanks and jeeps.

 

Joseph´s father lost no time but tried desperately to seek Esther, but he did not find her. The Jewish Joint Distribution Committee then helped them go to Switzerland for a recuperative period. After a few months they returned to Germany to look for Joseph's mother again. By a miracle she had survived the Holocaust, too, and they found her in Dachau in southern Germany, where the family settled. Later, in 1948, the Schleifstein family immigrated to the United States.

 

Today Joseph Schleifstein is the father of two children and trades stock on the Internet after taking early retirement a few years ago following 25 years at AT&T.


 

 

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