70 years after Holocaust, memories of horror don't diminish - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

70 years after Holocaust, memories of horror don't diminish

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T. Moffatt Burriss honored at State House T. Moffatt Burriss honored at State House
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

It's been almost 70 years since T. Moffatt Burriss marched into the concentration camps where Hitler's German Army exterminated Jews, but the horror of that memory hasn't faded with time.

"I will never forget," Burriss said. "I hope that you, too, will never forget the Holocaust."

Burriss was honored at the State House on Tuesday by the Columbia Holocaust Education Commission for his role in the liberation of the Jews. Before he served in the State House as a legislator, Burriss served his country in the Army during World War II.

"The certificates and awards I received are not for anything that I did," he said, "but for what my company did. They're the ones that made the sacrifice. They're the ones that deserve all the credit for the liberation."

The Holocaust Remembered exhibit at the State House includes Burriss' story. The exhibit highlights the stories of Jewish South Carolinians who survived the concentration camps and the South Carolina soldiers who liberated them.

After graduating from Clemson in 1940, the Anderson native joined the army. By September 1944, his unit was in Holland. In December, they reached Belgium.

Four months later, Burriss and his unit marched into the Wobbelin Concentration Camp in Germany, where they smelled the stench before arriving.

"The Holocaust was the most horrible exhibit I've seen in the war," he said. "I've been back there on several occasions and it brought back memories to me."

Burriss told the story of a man in his company, a Jew who escaped Austria as the Germans began their roundups and managed to make it to America. Upon returning to Europe, the Jewish solider began trying to put his family back together.

"He went from person to person in that camp and asked them, 'Did you know my parents who were in the concentration camp?'" Burriss recalled. "All of them would shake their head and say nothing until we found a Catholic priest. He asked the priest, 'Did you by any chance know my family?' The priest looked at him and said, 'Son, I don't know how to tell you this but your family was put to death a few days...'" Burriss' emotions prevented him from competing the statement.

"If ever you have seen the horror on the face of a young man, it was on his face as he sank to the ground and started to cry, saying 'If only I could have gotten here a few days sooner,'" described Burriss through his own tears. "I sank to the ground and cried with him."

"We must never forget," he said. "I will never forget."

The Holocaust exhibit will be at the State House until May 2.

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