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.
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:
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 ...
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.
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.
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.
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
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.