MEDWAY, Mass. (AP) - It was April 28, 1945, and Cranston “Chan” Rogers and his platoon were camped in the woods just a few miles outside of the German town of Dachau.
That night was the first time Col. Rogers had ever heard of a concentration camp after the company commander informed the men of what they should expect to see the next day.
On April 25, American forces liberated the camp, where more than 30,000 people died at the hands of the Nazi regime.
“The conditions were absolutely under-described,” Rogers, 91, said.
Rogers, a 20-year-old platoon leader at that point, came into the camp on the heels of another unit after the camp had already been liberated earlier that day. He and his men were then assigned to search for escapees in nearby housing units.
In of one of the buildings, Rogers and his men found a group of several Dutchmen. None of them spoke English, and none of the soldiers spoke Dutch.
“It took a few minutes in a dark basement for them to understand we were Americans,” he said. “Once they understood that, they were overjoyed.”
With Rogers not standing guard and not expecting an attack, one of the Dutchmen got close enough that they were “almost jaw-to-jaw.”
“He grabbed me and kissed me,” Rogers recalled of the man. “It scared the hell out of me.”
Rogers, in his Medway home, said he only tells his war stories in order to verify the dark history of the Nazi regime and the millions of Jews and other groups killed before and during World War II.
His story comes into the spotlight again as U.S. liberators, Holocaust survivors and Israeli soldiers are visiting Auschwitz, one of the most infamous concentration camps, to share their stories as part of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces “From Holocaust to Independence” mission.
Rogers left last week and the coalition will cross Poland and follow the movements of Jews as they were herded into ghettos and concentration camps.
“My main reason for wanting to say anything . is to help verify that these things did happen,” he said.
Among the atrocities Rogers and his men saw at the 20-plus acre camp were trainloads full of dead bodies and desperate prisoners.
Rogers said the conditions of the camp were awful enough to compel him to share his story.
“To treat people in this fashion- it was bad enough to keep them in jail, shoot them or kill them -but to treat them in such a way and let them die of starvation was certainly the height of inhumanity in terms of treating somebody else,” he said.
According to Rogers, he became so hardened by the war that he hasn’t cried since November of 1944 when he witnessed the first Americans killed in action- about eight soldiers he bunked with on the ship.
He was sent to report the news to a sergeant, and when he started crying, that sergeant told him in a few words that he shouldn’t.
“From then on, I don’t think I’ve ever cried,” he said.
Information from: The Milford (Mass.) Daily News, https://www.milforddailynews.com/
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