Guest Speaker: Captain Jack Nemerov

January 25th, 2011 by Brian Leave a reply »

“When we’re called upon to sacrifice ourselves, we go in and do it. It’s that simple.”

With those words, World War II veteran Jack Nemerov started telling our students what it was like to prepare for something you can never prepare for.

Nemerov recounted conflicts that he had with superior officers, friendships that he made with people of diverse backgrounds, and the solemn nervousness felt by a boat full of soldiers seeing Omaha Beach for the first time. You can bet the students paid attention when he talked about soldiers under his command dying in front of him. For many years, he kept inside what he saw in the war and only in recent years has he started speaking about them in detail.

This is understandable when you hear his story of having to torch cliffside Nazi encampments. His experiences didn’t end there, though. When his squad occupied a BMW factory in Germany, they never expected to find a death camp ten miles away. Dachau was so close that the soldiers could smell the burning ashes in the air. Nemerov was one of the first to go in and make contact with the survivors in the camp. Something that he said really stuck with me: the prisoners were so used to death, they just walked around the corpses. If they kept moving, they could stay alive. That had to be a nightmarish scene to encounter. Nemerov was one of the soldiers who made the people around the camp who “didn’t know” dig ditches and fill them with the dead bodies. For those that would deny the Holocaust, it’s a very real thing that this man saw.

By self-admission, Nemerov is getting older (he’s 93) and he may not be speaking at schools any more. If you get a chance to have a veteran present to your students, take it. One place to start would be places like the Veterans of Foreign War or the Jewish War Veterans association (where Jack Nemerov is from). These stories shouldn’t disappear without another generation hearing it from a primary source and not someone’s second-hand knowledge. Once again, so honored to hear from someone who’s willing to lay it all on the line for his beliefs.


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