Holocaust Survivors and Liberators Meet on Museum's 20th Anniversary

Could Be Last Large Gathering for Aging Group

Freedom Fighter: Ex-President Bill Clinton and Elie Wiesel greet Eldon Ooton, 90, an American GI who helped liberate Nazi concentration camps.
getty images
Freedom Fighter: Ex-President Bill Clinton and Elie Wiesel greet Eldon Ooton, 90, an American GI who helped liberate Nazi concentration camps.

By Reuters

Published April 29, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Ending a three-decade quest, Debbie Long on Monday met the American “kid” soldier who freed her mother from a World War II Nazi concentration camp. She threw her arms around Eldon Ooton, now 90, and sobbed.

Long and Ooton were among the former concentration camp prisoners, their families, and the U.S. soldiers who liberated them gathered at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday at what may be one of the last big gatherings of those who survived the Nazi genocide.

“I just met the man who liberated my mother,” said Long, wiping away tears after hugging Ooton, the veteran from Effingham, Illinois, still trim enough to fit in his World War II uniform, hung with medals.

“They were just kids, those soldiers,” said Long, a Chapel Hill, North Carolina, resident who had been trying since 1984 to find someone from Ooton’s unit, the 84th Infantry Division.

Troops from the unit freed the camp at Salzwedel, Germany, where her ill mother was a prisoner, having survived four concentration camps. The GIs then saved her mother’s life by taking her to a hospital for treatment, she said.

Ooton, a retired barber and real estate agent, said the Salzwedel prisoners he took to a hospital were “just filthy, half starved. It was very shocking to see those people in the street.”

After a hug from Long, he said: “I made my day for coming here. That was worth it all, for her hug and a cry.”

The ceremony marking the holocaust museum’s 20th anniversary drew about 4,000 people, including some 800 survivors and 130 World War II U.S. veterans who had freed labor camps in 1945.

SURVIVORS, LIBERATORS NOW IN 80s, 90s

Steven Luckert, curator of the museum’s permanent exhibitions, said the celebration had more urgency given the advanced age of the former GIs and the survivors of the Nazi campaign to exterminate Jews. Many are in their 80s and 90s.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.