Moskin, who served in the Army with the 66th infantry, 71st Division, recalls that his side of the experience started when a group of U.S. Army combat soldiers stumbled upon a prisoner-of-war camp, holding mostly Royal Air Force members, near Lambach, Austria. The British prisoners told the liberating soldiers that they’d heard rumors of a different kind of camp, a concentration camp for Jews, just a few kilometers away.
…“There were dead bodies on the left, piles of dead bodies on the right — and their arms and legs looked like broomsticks covered with no flesh,” Moskin says. Slowly, the ones who were still alive stumbled toward them like “the living dead, zombies,” in striped pajamas with a sewn-on star of David, calling out in German for food, water and cigarettes.
…“I remember saying the German for ‘I am also a Jew.’ It just came out of me. I don’t know where I heard it,” Moskin says. “An elderly man, very emaciated, started to smile and came towards me and he went down on his hands and knees and started to kiss my boots, which were tainted with blood, vomit, and feces. I knew he was trying to be affectionate toward me, but it made me very uncomfortable to watch him kissing my filthy, bloody boots. So I picked him up under the armpits, and as he came up towards me I could see open, festering sores going up and down his neck, and lice coming out of those sores. You could imagine that I wanted to pull away because he smelled so badly, but I didn’t. He had wrapped his arms around me and he was crying. He kept saying ‘Danke [thank you], danke, Jew.’ That’s when I lost it a little bit and started to cry.”
In the days that followed, word trickled in from other Army outfits that the events at Gunskirchen were just one liberation among many.
“Every time we found out,” Moskin recalls, “we said, ‘My God, how many of these damn hellholes are there?’”
…Preserving that story, and its lesson, is a job that Moskin feels remains unfinished.
“I’m going to be honest with you, my generation failed,” he says. “We didn’t get rid of the hate and prejudice. There’s still hate out there, all over the place.”
But, as Katz sees it, that’s a job that will never be complete — which is why it’s important to remember that, even at the worst moments in human history, luck and goodness can run counter to evil.
“Even then, there were people that were good and kind,” he says. “Same thing now. There are some people that will always hate, and there are people that are good, and that’s just human nature.”