Let me just start off by saying, you never know who you’re sitting next to! I was in an antique store sitting down at a table and struck up a conversation with a fascinating gentleman. He was one of General Patton’s soldiers directly responsible for saving the life one of my favorite authors, Elie Wiesel! .
I had the pleasure of spending a couple of afternoons with this local hero, 94 year-old WW II veteran, Sgt. Richard L. Barber. He was one of the liberators of the Buchenwald concentration camp, just outside of Weimar, Germany. I was in a collegiate choral group, The Ouachita Singers, and when we toured Germany and Austria, we visited Buchenwald and observed the place where so many horrific acts were committed by the Nazis. Because of my fascination with history, I’ve read a considerable amount about WW II and Buchenwald concentration camp in particular. But hearing a firsthand account from an eyewitness who had been there on April 11, 1945 made history come alive to me. .
Sgt. Barber was THE soldier who shot the lock off at block 66, the barracks where he found 15-year-old, Elie Wiesel (winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize and author of many books, including Night... an incredible book if you’ve never read it before), who repeatedly thanked him for saving his life.
After the war ended, years later, Sgt. Barber was a visiting speaker at a college, telling his story. At the end of his speaking engagement, students and professors surrounded him and one man made his way through the crowd, hands folded together, thanking Sgt. Barber over and over for saving his life. At the time, this man was known as Professor Mellon. Sgt. Barber later discovered this was Elie Wiesel, using a false name to escape the notice of Nazi sympathizers in the states. .
I returned to the antique store the next day, carrying my copy of the Buchenwald book that I had purchased while visiting the concentration camp and Sgt. Barber did me the great honor of autographing it for me!
Oviedo Antique Mall