Here’s The Story Of Anthony C. Acevedo, The First Mexican-American Recognized As A Holocaust Survivor
When people think of those that survived or died in the Holocaust, Mexican-Americans are not the first that come to mind. In fact, they might not come to mind at all. However, there’s are millions of non-Jewish people that were victims of Hitler’s regime. There are 11 million people, including gay people, priests, gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anarchists, Poles and other Slavic peoples, and resistance fighters, whodied in World War II. Like Jewish people, the non-Jewish community were seen as “undesirables.” One of those undesirables was Anthony C. Acevedo, a military medic for the United States. He documented life and death at a Nazi concentration camp.
Anthony C. Acevedo, a World War II veteran and survivor of a Nazi camp, died at the age of 93.
While Acevedo died on Feb. 11, his family buried him on March 8 in Riverside, California.
“If I can describe my father with one word, it would be heart,” Acevedo’s daughter, Rebeca Acevedo-Carlin, said at an earlier memorial service, according to CNN.
“What an incredible, genuine man he was,” Fernando Acevedo, his son, said according to CNN. “He would always say have faith, care for others and, more importantly, love one another. I saw my father act with love toward everyone.”
Acevedo joined the U.S. Army as a medic in 1944.U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project. The University of Austin Texas.
Acevedo’s father was an engineer who worked for the U.S. government despite not having proper documentation. Acevedo’s mother died while he was a baby. In 1937, during the Great Depression, Acevedo’s father — like many Mexicans during that time — was deported to Mexico.
While Acevedo was born in San Bernardino, California, he went to Mexico to be with his dad.
In 2009, Acevedo said in an interview with The Press Enterprise that when he was interrogated by a German officer in 1945, the man knew all the details about his life.
“He pointed at me with his baton,” Acevedo said in 2009. “He knew everything about me. He knew about my family. He talked to me in Spanish and English. He said, ‘You were born in San Bernardino and raised in Pasadena. Your parents were kicked out of the United States. That’s what the Americans do.'”
On Jan. 6, 1945, Acevedo and 350 U.S. soldiers were captured during the Battle of the Bulge and sent to a Nazi prison and labor camp.YouTube
“The Germans were getting closer and closer,” Acevedo said, according to U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project. “We ran out of ammunition until, finally, we were caught.”
For the next several months, Acevedo had to help his fellow soldiers since he was a medic, but he was also trying to survive. They all faced torture and illness from brutal beatings and barely any food, the Washington Post reports.
“At the time, you would eat anything to try and survive,” Acevedo said, according to U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project.
When he arrived at the camp, Acevedo weighed 149 pounds, and after he was released he weighed only 87 pounds.
While at the prison camp, Acevedo risked his own life by keeping a journal and documenting every death he witnessed.United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Anthony Acevedo
Here’s an example of one entry that the Washington Post reprinted.
Two more of our men died today + one last night makes 3 + 16 — makes 19; living in unsanitary conditions; water must be boiled before it is drinkened. No latrines. Deaths are increasing in great number.
When asked by the Holocaust Memorial Museum why he kept a journal and risked his life by doing so, he said: “It was my moral obligation to do so.”
“Prisoners were being murdered and tortured by the Nazis,” Acevedo told CNN in 2008. “Many of our men died, and I tried keeping track of who they were and how they died. I’m glad I did it.”
On April 23, 1945 the war ended and out of the 350 soldiers captured only 120 survived including Acevedo.
Acevedo spent the last two decades of his life volunteering at the veterans hospital where he passed away.
“They saluted my dad all the way up and down the hallway as we were walking. Four floors like that,” his son Fernando told CNN. “Nurses, doctors, patients who were able to stand — everyone was standing at attention saluting my dad. I tell you, that was really heavy.”
In 2010, Acevedo was the first Mexican-American to register as a Holocaust survivor at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum .Facebook/Travis Cole
Kyra Schuster, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum curator told CNN: “He was this man who, despite the odds against him, despite what he was going through and experiencing, it was still important for him to take care of others, to document what was happening, to make sure the world knew what had happened to them. That’s why he spoke out later in life. He was always putting other people ahead of himself. That’s how I see him, and that is so admirable.”
READ: A New Exhibition Tells The Stories Of Mexicans And Mexican-Americans Who Were Illegally Deported In The ’20s And ’30s
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