Levittown's Jack and Thea Rumstein, Holocaust survivors who were liberated,...

Levittown's Jack and Thea Rumstein, Holocaust survivors who were liberated, at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale. (April 9, 2012) Credit: Ed Betz

Hy Horowitz pointed to a hulking M4 Sherman tank on display outside a hangar in Farmingdale -- it was just like one he and his comrades had ridden over hilltops on a night in April 1945.

The American former tank driver's story of crashing through barbed wire fences at the Ohrdruf Nazi concentration camp was one of several shared Monday at a remembrance event in Farmingdale to commemorate the 67th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust.

The audience of several dozen at the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport fell silent as Horowitz told of finding a horrifying labor camp of starving prisoners, branded with the Star of David and chained to the machines they operated.

"We crashed through them [the fences] and discovered something that young guys should never see, dead bodies strewn all around -- men, women and children," said Horowitz, 92, of East Meadow. "How sad, how sad," he added in a broken voice. "No human should ever see what we saw that day."

The event sought not only to mark the anniversary, but also to preserve the memories of its horrors as a cautionary tale for humanity.

"As the years continue to separate us from the events of World War II, we are in danger of allowing time and distance to dull our understanding of what occurred," said Michael Geiger, director of Republic Airport. "That is why it is important to gather here within the shadow of what had served as America's arsenal of democracy seven decades ago."

Ivar Segalowitz, a Great Neck resident, told of the ordeal that started when he was 11 and forced into a Lithuanian ghetto. He was later taken to camps at Stutthof, Dachau, Auschwitz and, finally, on an exhausting "death march" to Buchenwald.

He bears the prisoner's number B-2879 on his left forearm. He was tattooed with that at Auschwitz. He lost his mother, father, two aunts and an uncle before he was freed from Buchenwald, Segalowitz said.

"It's critical that the memory be maintained and that we confront . . . the people who run around and deny the atrocities," said Segalowitz, 82.

Thea Rumstein, a Levittown resident liberated from the Mauthausen-Gusen camp in Austria, told of having to eat grass for lack of food and of how she was "completely numbed" by the time the Americans arrived.

Despite losing parents, grandparents, aunts and cousins, Rumstein, 84, lived a rewarding life, she said. She met Jack Rumstein, another liberated prisoner, as both were nurtured back to life at a Vienna soup kitchen. Years later, they met again in New York. They married, have a daughter and three grandsons.

"It's a love story," a smiling Rumstein said. "After 57 years we are still together and we still like each other."

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