It took several decades, but 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Marsha Kreuzman finally found one of the soldiers who liberated her from the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. The unlikely story of how Kreuzman tracked down Joe Barbella, of the U.S. Army’s 11th Armored Division comes to us from the New Jersey Star Ledger, and it’s pretty remarkable.
In October 2013, after years (many of them pre-Google) of trying to track down news about members of the army unit that liberated Mauthausan—where Kreuzman was imprisoned after harrowing stints in Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Flossenbürg—Kreuzman read the Star Ledger’s 65th wedding anniversary announcement for Joe and Anne Barbella: “A veteran of World War II, Joseph served in the 11th Armored Division which liberated the Mauthausen concentration camp.”
She contacted the Barbella’s the next day, and the rest, as they say, is history. Here’s the story, pieced together by both Kreuzman and Barbella:
On May 5, 1945, U.S. soldiers from the 11th Armored Division would cross the Linz border in Austria and liberate Mauthausen. Barbella wouldn’t enter the camp with the medical unit until the day after it was liberated, he said.
“When we got there, we saw all these people were skin and bones,” Barbella said.
Kreuzman said she remembers lying down just outside the camp’s crematorium when the soldiers arrived. She heard the words: “You’re free.”
She fainted and a soldier carried her to a field hospital, where doctors would start nursing her back to health, she said.
Kreuzman and Barbella now keep in regular contact, speaking by phone and visiting in person—she brought him a Christmas present last week. How’s that for some uplifting news on this dreary, snow-filled Friday?