MEDWAY (CBS) — Retired Colonel Cranston Rogers said that, when he entered the Dachau concentration camp with Allied forces in 1945, the soldiers didn’t know what to expect.
“We had no concept that the Germans had done what they did,” Rogers told WBZ.
This week, Rogers, who lives in Medway now, will return to one of those camps–Auschwitz–where he will meet with fellow liberators and survivors. The eight-day “From Holocaust to Independence” trip, which will visit Poland and Israel, is being organized by the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.
Rogers said that it wasn’t until later that the full scope of the Holocaust was understood.
“It was pretty grim. In my view it was extremely grim,” says Rogers. He’s 91 now, but Rogers was no more than a kid when he fought his way across France and Germany losing friends and seeing terrible things.
Though he wasn’t among the first Americans to liberate the camp, he went inside days later to find train cars with a horrible cargo. “They were all dead bodies. We were dumbstruck and couldn’t understand how they died, what the conditions were and why, why, how this was able to happen,” he remembers.
He saw the dead, the survivors, the ovens and more. “There was a, a gas chamber,” he recalls.
And now, the retired Army Reserve Colonel is part of a trip to commemorate that terrible time with other veterans and Holocaust survivors, and to continue the job he started 71 years ago.
“There are people who say it didn’t happen. I definitely decided, without any question, that I wanted to help, to confirm that it happened,” he says.
With one of his sons and a daughter, Rogers and the delegation will visit the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp and then travel to Israel to mark the birth of that nation.
“To be a part of this story of explaining what happened, and the truth, really, shall prevail, and people should know the truth,” says Gregg Rogers, one of the Colonel’s sons.
They leave Tuesday, part as part of a 50 person delegation.
It won’t be Col. Rogers’ first trip back to Europe. He’s been to Dachau several times for commemoration ceremonies.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Karen Twomey reports