Slave soldiers honored, called 'national treasures'
"National treasures," Maj. Gen. Vincent Boles said Saturday evening.
It marked the first time in history the U.S. Army recognized 350 soldiers held as slaves inside Nazi Germany. The men were beaten, starved and forced to work in tunnels at Berga an der Elster where the Nazi government had a hidden V-2 rocket factory. Berga was a subcamp of the notorious concentration camp Buchenwald.
"These men were abused and put under some of the most horrific conditions," the general told a private gathering of Berga survivors. "It wasn't a prison camp. It was a slave labor camp."
No ranking Army official had ever uttered the words "slave labor camp" in reference to the men's captivity at Berga. Boles knew the gravity of his statement -- that he was setting the historical record straight after 64 years.
It was a bittersweet moment. More than 100 of the Berga soldiers died at the slave camp or on a forced death march of more than 200 miles in April 1945. About 80 of the 350 soldiers had been singled out for being Jewish by the Nazis.
The six Berga survivors present -- Fahrer, 86; Morton Brooks, 83; Sidney Lipson, 85; Peter Iosso, 83; Wallace Carden, 84; and Edward Slotkin, 84 -- looked on stoically as Boles spoke privately with them.
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