Anthony Acevedo's diary: The 'forgotten' Hispanics of WWII
More than 300 American soldiers were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM).
They made him promise never to talk about what happened, and he did so for 65 years, but the diary in which this soldier with Mexican parents wrote down the names of his comrades who died in the Berga concentration camp (Germany) - out of 300 only 165 survived - along with other belongings he donated to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, has become proof that a few hundred of the millions of soldiers the U.S. sent to help liberate Europe from the Nazis in WWII suffered similar atrocities.
"When we arrived at our destination, the Germans surprised us and surrounded us, shouting: Boots off and let's go," this former combatant of the 70th Infantry Division explained in a telephone interview to El País in 2012.
Anthony was 19 at the time. He had been destined to fight in Germany along with 349 other soldiers and when the Nazis hunted them down they were taken to this satellite concentration camp for non-Jews - not prisoners - where they were dedicated to watching, according to Acevedo, that all the inmates were in "good physical shape," which means "alive," at least during the three months they were in Berga before being liberated.
"Many wounds of the soul are incurable," Anthony Acevedo.
"About 80 of my fellow prisoners died there. I registered them by their last name, prisoner number, and date," said Acevedo, who got the notebook on one occasion when they received humanitarian aid from the Red Cross.
"Narrating the events was something necessary that helped me clear my mind during that horrible experience, where uncertainty was the constant. Those soldiers deserved to be remembered."
The diary of Acevedo, who was a doctor at the time, is one of the few records of deaths from the German camps during the WWII and he had to keep it secret because his life, the Latino veteran said, would have been at risk if he revealed it.
"I remember once trying to get the commander to allow me to operate on a man who was suffering from diphtheria -difficulty in breathe-; he only had to make a slight cut in his windpipe. I was not allowed to do that. The only thing I got was beaten up," said the Hispanic soldier, who a few years earlier, at age 16, had turned in spies who were informing the Nazis from Durango, Mexico.
And he added:
"The main problem was malnutrition, I myself arrived weighing 149 pounds and left with 87. The food was disgusting. They fed us grass soup, rat meat, dead cats and even cockroaches.
When, in early April 1945, German soldiers sensed that American troops were nearby, they took them out of the camp and marched some 217 miles in what Acevedo called "the death march," then abandoned them.
"The noise of the tanks was getting closer and closer," he concluded.
"Many wounds of the soul are incurable."