George Sherman: “We discovered Mauthausen”
ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – This week’s trivia question: When the 11th Armored Division of the American Army discovered the Mauthausen concentration camp in May, 1945, how many Spanish prisoners did they find there?
On January 27, 1945, Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp, where more than a million people had been murdered by the Nazis. In October 2005 the United Nations declared January 27 International Holocaust Memorial Day to commemorate this anniversary.
On January 18, Centro Sefarad-Israel in Madrid opened an exhibition about the Mauthausen concentration camp, which is perhaps less well-known than Auschwitz. Aside from other prisoners, about 7500 Spaniards who had fought against Franco in the Civil War were also sent there. The exhibit, Mauthausen: memorias compartidas (shared memories) aims to inform and reflect upon the shared experiences of these Spanish Republicans and the Jews who were interned there. You can visit the exhibition until June 17, and group visits may be scheduled.
On May 5, 1945, Mauthausen was liberated by the United States Army.
In 2014 we spoke with George Sherman, one of the youngest of the American soldiers to enter the camp on that day. This week we are bringing you that program again, to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day and to complement the new exhibit.
George Sherman was 17 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1944. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge that winter and in May, 1945, was a tank gunner in the 11th Armored Division. They were in Northern Austria, looking for the Russian soldiers they were supposed to meet, when they came upon Mauthausen concentration camp, which they hadn´t known existed. His unit drove into the camp and stopped, seeing the barracks, the dead bodies, and the surviving prisoners; they radioed back to headquarters, and their officers joined them shortly afterward.
It took decades for Sherman to begin to speak about the experience, and since then he made it his mission to educate younger generations about the Holocaust, speaking to school and community groups around the world, and also participating in teacher-training programs.
In 2010, more than 100 former U.S. soldiers who liberated Nazi death camps during World War Two were honored at a special ceremony in Washington.
(George Sherman passed away in 2015. May his memory be a blessing.)