North Bellmore vet recounts horror, heroism of liberation
North Bellmore's Morris Sunshine saw both the horrors and the heroism of humanity as a 19-year-old Army sergeant in Nazi Germany.
Sunshine was a member of the 249th Combat Engineer Battalion when he liberated Nordhausen, a concentration camp, on April 12, 1945.
"You can't believe that man could be so cruel to man," says Sunshine of his experience.
"They had gates with big locks and we had the equipment to cut those things open. And we did. We opened up all the gates."
Sunshine and his comrades encountered a scene that haunts him to this day - starving prisoners clinging to life amid the worst abuse imaginable. There was no question about what to do next. Sunshine began attempting to feed hundreds of starving prisoners.
"The unjustness of this calamity. It was so big that anything I could do to help these people I would do," says Sunshine.
To those who were rescued, the GIs were nothing short of saviors when they opened the gates. Smithtown's Warner Reich was just 64 pounds when he was liberated from Mauthausen as a 17-year-old. For him, words will never be enough to thank his liberators.
"They offered us life. And I don't know if the words 'thank you' is really appropriate," says Reich.
Now 90 years old, Sunshine says giving the gift of freedom is reward enough for his service.
"I know what I did I was very happy to do. And especially what I saw I will never forget it."