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Public Affairs : 2013 Days Of Remembrance

Days of Remembrance: A tale of survival, devestation and hope

Story and photos by Kathy Eastwood
Staff Writer

WEST POINT, N.Y. (April 18, 2013) — He was born Jakub Szabmacher in Belzyce, Poland in 1930. He became Jack Terry, physician and psychiatrist living in New York and treating concentration camp survivors—and he says it was all made possible with the help of American Soldiers.

Dr. Jack Terry, M.D., was the guest speaker at the annual Holocaust National Days of Remembrance April 10 at the West Point Club. Terry is a survivor of several concentration camps during the Nazi occupation of Poland and Germany, and the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. His last concentration camp was Flossenburg, in Bavaria, Germany near the border of Czechoslovakia.

“The camp was liberated April 23, 1945 at exactly 10:50 a.m. by the U.S. Army 90th Infantry Division,” Terry said. “This was the first time I saw an American Soldier. For me, that was the saddest day of my life. For the first time, I had the freedom and the opportunity to think of something else, and putting something in my mouth, and for the first time, I allowed myself to think about my mother, father, my sisters and my brother.”

Terry said he witnessed the murder of his mother, sister and brother by the Nazis. Later, he learned of the death of his father and another sister in the camps.

Terry showed slides of the Army Soldiers who took charge of him, including Maj. Sam Gray Jr., and Lt. Ivan Oppenheimer who placed Terry in the guardhouse of the camp as his safe place. The camp was still filled with lice and disease, and there was a shortage of DDT.

“Instead of going to a displaced person camp, Lt. Oppenheimer told me to stick around as there was a place with fewer people and the food will be better,” Terry said. “He took me to his unit, the 57th Medical Battalion.”

That is where Terry also met Capt. Lawrence Salter, who had frequently been to the camp. Salter taught him how to shoot a pistol and gave him a .22 pistol.

“Then I was introduced to Lt. Col. Louis Leland, commander of the 57th,” Terry said. “Years later, he told me he just couldn’t leave me there so he sent for Capt. Salter to bring me to his battalion. He made me a small Army uniform and he wrote to his wife about wanting to adopt me. I was with the unit from May 1945 to July 15, when Leland was to report to Paris to be transferred to the Pacific theater.”

Terry went with Leland to Paris, who gave him a letter from his wife about the possibility of coming to the United Sates and left him there with instructions on how to locate Leland’s brother.

“Transportation was impossible and I had a .22 pistol in my pocket, a letter and a piece of paper that said I was in Flossenburg concentration camp,” Terry said. “The first thing I did was throw the pistol away, and then I took the letter to a G.I. because I didn’t trust anyone except for an American Soldier. The American Army was just wonderful.

“Leland gave me the address of his brother in France who took me to Marseille to get a Polish Passport,” Terry added. “I arrived in the United States two days after my 16th birthday in March 1946.”

Leland was on active duty and had orders for his next tour of duty to Panama. Every few years he was moving, but he wanted to ensure Terry was some place where he could get an education.

“So they eventually sent me to the Terry family in New York,” Terry said. “I had only three years of grade school, but they asked me what I liked. I said I liked arithmetic, so they wanted me to go to the Brooklyn Technical High School.”

Terry said Brooklyn Technical required an entrance exam, which presented a problem because he knew he wouldn’t be able to learn English in the amount of time to attend the school. He was granted a delay and eventually passed the exam.

“Two years later, I was teaching English grammar to American-born youths,” he said.

Five years after his liberation, Terry graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School and from the Colorado School of Mines in 1954 as a geologist on an ROTC scholarship. He also served in the Army Engineer Intelligence Center in Schwetzingen, Germany.

After his service, Terry returned to the U.S., attended medical school and earned his doctorate in 1964. He then turned his attention to psychoanalysis at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute to help other Holocaust survivors. Terry, who now is retired, is also involved in Holocaust memorial activities and travels frequently to speak and educate.
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Born Jakub Szabmacher in Belzyce, Poland in March 1930, he changed his name when he came to the United States and is now known as Dr. Jack Terry. Terry was the guest speaker at the annual Holocaust National Days of Remembrance Luncheon April 10 at the West Point Club. Terry was the youngest of four children and the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.

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The Cadet Jewish Choir sang a cappella at the annual Holocaust National Days of Remembrance Luncheon April 10 at the West Point Club. The Cadet Pipes and Drums band also performed. Dr. Jack Terry, also known as Jakub Szabmacher spoke about his escape from a concentration camp that killed his family and was rescued by American Soldiers.

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Class of 2014 Cadet Joel Puritz, a member of the Cadet Jewish Choir, sings a cappella at the Holocaust National Days of Remembrance Luncheon April 10 at the West Point Club. Holocaust survivor Dr. Jack Terry was the guest speaker and shared his experience in the concentration camp, and how he escape and rescued by American Soldiers.

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Members of the Cadet Pipes and Drums Club participate at the annual Holocaust National Days of Remembrance Luncheon April 10 at the West Point Club. The theme for this year's luncheon was "Never Again, Heeding the Warning Signs."