Title: Article from The Jerusalem Post, (denshopd-p22-00010)
Densho ID: denshopd-p22-00010


Dachau survivors meet their Japanese-American liberators

In what may be one of the most unusual post-Holocaust reunions, 50 Japanese-American veterans of World War II yesterday met at Jerusalem's Ramada Renaissance Hotel with some of the people they liberated from Dachau concentration camp exactly 47 years ago.

The men, all in their early 70s, were members of the US Army's 526th [522nd] Field Artillery Battalion, which except for its officers was made up of Japanese-Americans. Most of them volunteered from the 10 camps on the US West Coast, where about 120,000 Nisei, as they were called, were interned after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

Although many of the families were American-born, their loyalty was suspect in the atmosphere then prevailing.

Determined to prove its patriotism, the unit became the single most decorated in the US Army, earning 18,000 decorations, an average of three per soldier. The unit also suffered an incredibly high casualty rate, losing about 700 killed.

Rudi Tokiba [Rudy Tokiwa], the leader of the group, told a press conference how ironic it was that "we, the liberators, ourselves had families confined to US camps." Clarence Matsumara, of Los Angeles, said that to him the Nisei camps "were concentration camps just like Dachau."

He described the mounds of corpses and the crematoria ovens they saw at Dachau, saying the memory of what he saw has weighed on his mind ever since.

Driving past Dachau, the unit also liberated groups of prisoners who were on a death march towards the Tyrolean Alps, where some Nazis hoped to establish a last redoubt.

Survivor Solly Ganor said that when he saw a jeep driving toward him in the deep snow, he at first thought it was German. But when he heard the four soldiers in it speak English, he knew it was American, although he was astounded to see their Japanese features, which he recognized from movies he had seen in his native Lithuania.

"I cried last night, when I recognized one of my saviors," Ganor said.

The story began to be pieced together some years ago by the San Francisco Holocaust Oral History Project, which organized a small reunion last year, said Lani Silver, who works on the project.

For reasons never satisfactorily explained, the US veterans were warned during the war not to talk about their experience at Dachau or to take photos. Of the many photos in existence of the liberation of Dachau, none have so far shown the Japanese-American soldiers. The Nisei were only one of several units involved in the liberation.

Asked why they kept silent for so long, the veterans said they were reticent, although in recent years they have fought for and won compensation for the years their families spent in internment. "But I am still angry that even today some people say that even today some people say they won't buy a Japanese car," one of the men said.

The veterans' visit was supported by the Bnai Zion fraternal Jewish organization, although all the veterans are here at their own expense.

An exhibition of photos called "Unlikely Liberators" taken by the veterans will open at Yad Vashem on Sunday.

[Photo caption]: Inmates at Dachau concentration camp celebrate as American soldiers liberate them.