Joshua Kaufman first saluted his rescuer Daniel Gillespie

In a Sign of Ultimate Respect and Humility a Holocaust Survivor Falls to His Knees in Front of The US Soldier who Liberated Him From a Concentration Camp

This is the poignant moment when a man rescued from the hell he endured at the hands of the Nazis met his saviour almost 70 years later.

Joshua Kaufman first saluted his rescuer Daniel Gillespie. Then he kissed his hand and finally, he fell to his feet, exclaiming: ‘I have wanted to do this for 70 years. I love you, I love you so much…’.

Kaufman, now 87, was a ‘walking corpse’ on April 29 1945 when U.S. Army soldier Gillespie, 89, marched in with his comrades to liberate the charnel house that was the Dachau concentration camp near Munich.

Gillespie, a machine gunner with the 42nd ‘Rainbow Division,’ moved to block 11 of the infamous complex which was the first camp built by the Nazis to house its enemies in 1933. 

Joshua Kaufman first saluted his rescuer Daniel Gillespie
Salute: Nazi prisoner Joshua Kaufman (left) pays tribute to Daniel Gillespie (right), the American soldier who liberated him from the Dachau death camp
Joshua Kaufman first saluted his rescuer Daniel Gillespie
It was an emotional reunion for both men. Kaufman kissed the hand of his rescuer.

By the time it was liberated more than 35,000 people had been murdered there – in executions, in cruel medical experiments, starved, worked and beaten to death.

The first person he saw was Hungarian Jew Kaufman. He was hiding in the latrines with other prisoners, uncertain if the soldiers who arrived were liberators or a Nazi death squad sent to liquidate the camp.

‘We were confined to barracks by the guards. This meant most of us were marked for death,’ Mr Kaufman said.

‘Then I saw the white flag flying from the watchtower and I realised then that the torture was at an end. When the Americans smashed in the door, my heart did somersaults.

Gillespie helped the emaciated prisoner into the daylight and back into the land of the living. Both parted with tears in their eyes – both believed they would never see one another again.

Kaufman, who lost most of his family in the Holocaust, made it to Israel where he became a soldier who fought in the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. 

He later emigrated to America where he married, fathered three daughters and became a self employed plumber.

Gillespie married, fathered eight children and built a career for himself as a successful salesman. 

Joshua Kaufman first saluted his rescuer Daniel Gillespie
My hero: Kaufman thanks Gillespie for saving his life. Recalling the moment he realised the camp had been liberated, Kaufman said: ‘When the Americans smashed in the door, my heart did somersaults’

Amazingly, neither knew that they lived within an hour’s drive of each other until a German documentary crew arranged their moving reunion on the sand at Hungtington Beach, California.

Accompanied by his youngest daughter Alexandra, 34, to the meeting, Joshua said: ‘I came out of hell into the light. For that, and to him, I am eternally grateful.’

Gillespie had fought with his comrades through Europe to reach the gates of the Dachau camp.

He said, ‘It was the most profound shock of my life. Its liberation changed my life forever.”

‘We could not understand it. I grew up in California where we had everything in abundance. 

‘We didn’t get how people could let other people starve. They murdered them or just let them die. Again and again the questions moved through my head. And at the same time I was just incredibly angry.’

Joshua Kaufman first saluted his rescuer Daniel Gillespie
Gates to hell: The entrance to the Dachau concentration camp, where more than 35,000 people are believed to have died, bearing the infamous Nazi slogan ‘Arbeit Mach Frei’ which means ‘Work makes you free’
Joshua Kaufman first saluted his rescuer Daniel Gillespie
Torment: Pain is etched on the faces of prisoners inside Dachau in a picture believed to have been taken on the day the camp was liberated by American forces
Joshua Kaufman first saluted his rescuer Daniel Gillespie
Captive: Prisoners peer out from behind a barbed wire fence as they await rescue after the liberation of Dachau. Built in 1933, it was the first of the concentration camps built by the Nazi regime

When they were reunited, Gillespie asked Kaufman: ‘How did you survive? What kept you alive?’ 

An emotional and overwhelmed Kaufman replied: ‘Dying would have been easier. In Dachau we had to tote around 50 kilo cement sacks. The whole day long.

‘Whoever broke down was immediately shot. It turned me into an animal. And animals want to survive. I wanted to live.’ 

He described how, to this day, he still sleeps on a thin mattress close to a window so he can gaze out at green grass every day.

The meeting, and their stories, will be told in a special for the History Channel Deutschland to be screened on May 31. 

Kaufman had the last word on the beach when he said: ‘I have everything I wanted in life through him. That is the reason for my thankfulness.’

Joshua Kaufman first saluted his rescuer Daniel Gillespie
Thank you: A clearly overwhelmed Kaufman finally fell at Gillespie’s feet in gratitude, exclaiming: ‘I have wanted to do this for 70 years. I love you, I love you so much…’.

Both men are old, both realise they will probably never see one another again. 

But both said they were humbled by their meeting so many years after Nazism was crushed.


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10 comments

  1. I am having tears in my eyes and goose bumps all over. How horrible holocaust was, so many people during and after that time showed that there is still a light glooming that will end the horror.

    Like

  2. I have visited the concentration camp at Dachau. I felt and heard the torment of the lost souls the minute I walked through those gates. I felt so cold, even though the day was quite warm. It was so surreal. The minute I walked out of the gates I was warm again and the cries disappeared. I have never felt anything like that since. Yet nothing has been learnt from this – it is still happening around the world.

    Like

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