Copyright 1993 Chicago Tribune Company Chicago Tribune September 1, 1993, Wednesday, NORTHWEST SPORTS FINAL EDITION SECTION: NORTHWEST; Pg. 3; ZONE: NW LENGTH: 547 words HEADLINE: GIs now fighting the myth that Holocaust was a lie BYLINE: Martha Russis DATELINE: Schaumburg BODY: Robert Powers thought his mission was finished in 1945 when World War II ended, but a half century later. he and his buddies are fighting what they consider another insidious enemy born from that conflict. The enemy, Powers said, is the idea being floated in some circles that the Holocaust, the systematic Nazi extermination of millions of people, never happened. But the Texan and former Amoco manager from Chicago said he and the other GIs who served in the 103rd Infantry Division were overran German positions and found death camps in Landsberg, Germany, in 1944. The 400 surviving members of the 103rd attended a reunion last week at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield. And their new mission is to make sure history is not repeated. Powers is giving this year's meeting a new importance by speaking out against what he calls crazy people portraying the Holocaust as a hoax. "I did not think about it for 40 years until I started to see things in the newspapers, but I just want people to know the truth as to what has happened in our lifetime and to our country," said Powers, 70. A visible shudder rushed through him when he recounted his drive through a Landsberg extermination camp where he witnessed the bodies of Jews and Christians covering the ground and bulldozed into open graves. But even after the 6 million victims were formally remembered when the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened in April, Powers is denouncing what he perceives to be a growing movement of Holocaust denial. In particular, it involves a poll released earlier this year from the American Jewish Committee in which 22 percent of adult respondents said it seems possible the Nazi extermination never happened. In addition, several university newspapers across the country have accepted ads from the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust, saying the human atrocities were fabricated. Former GIs such as Pierce Evans, 68, of St. Augustine, Fla., have vivid memories of the stench of thousands of corpses that "looked like skeletons with skin stretched over them." "There were certainly several thousands lying around the camp the day we arrived," said Evans, a corporal who insisted that the victims receive dignified burials. "Pictures just don't tell it all. Your senses of smell and touch and sound just multiply that horror a million times." Landsberg, population 30,000, is chronicled as a town ringed by six small death camps and the place where Adolf Hitler wrote "Mein Kampf," the bible of the Nazi leader and heart of his work to create the Nazi Party. "We did have a part in stopping that, and we still do have a great deal of pride in that, although we were too late for many of those people. We know that it did end when we got there," said Bill Brooke, 67, a rifleman who lives in Littlefield, Texas. Powers is alerting his friends against the propaganda with the hope that they will set the record straight when they get back home. "I want them to go home and know this is going on so that when they see it, they can say, 'Whoa, back up there. I was there. I know what happened.' We need to get all this straight so we can go on with our lives and teach our children and let's don't let it happen again," Powers said. GRAPHIC: PHOTOS: Alfred Black, 76, of Apple Valley, Calif., (above, left) and Bill Brooke, 67, of Littlefield, Texas, talk about the way they were in this 1945 photo (left). "We did have a part in stopping (the Nazi atrocities)," Brooke said. "We know that it did end when we got there." Tribune photos by Chuck Berman.
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