of Stephan Ross to U. S. Congress
Holocaust survivor testifies for flag protection
Stephan Ross testified before the "Subcommittee on the Constitution" of the House Judiciary Committee on March 23, 1999. This is his testimony:
Mr. Chairman, members of the Judiciary Committee, my name is Steve Ross.
I came to America as an orphan on April 10, 1948 and I became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America on May 3, 1953.
I came from the places of gas chambers, fire, ashes and chaos to my adopted country. The American people embraced me and took me under their wing and gave me an opportunity to grow and prosper, so that I could become one of them. I am proud to live free in this generous society.
Fifty years ago, American soldiers saved me from the hell of Dachau. They nursed me back to health and restored my will to live. Yet, what I remember most about my liberation is my tears being spilled on a small American flag. From that day to this, my love for our flag has never faltered.
My story begins in 1940. When I was nine years old, the Germans took me from my home in Krasnik, Poland.
For five years I was a prisoner of the Nazis in 10 death camps, where I saw thousands of men, women and children brutally murdered and starved or worked to death by the Nazis’ death machine.
I lived on bread crumbs, sawdust, human remains, and one small prayer for redemption or death – whichever was quicker.
My prayers were answered on April 29, 1945, when I was liberated from Dachau by the 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions of the U.S. Seventh Army. We were nursed for several days by these war-weary, but compassionate men and women until we had enough strength to travel to Munich for additional medical attention.
As we walked ever so slowly and unsteadily toward our salvation, a young American tank commander, whose name I have never known, jumped off his tank to help us in whatever way he could.
When he saw that I was just a young boy, despite my gaunt appearance, he stopped to offer me comfort and compassion. He gave me his own food. He touched my withered body with his hands and his heart. His love instilled in me a will to live, and I fell at his feet and shed my first tears in five years.
He kneeled by my side and gently wiped them away with his handkerchief. It was only later, after he had gone, that I realized that his handkerchief was a small American flag, the first I had ever seen. It became my flag of redemption and freedom.
For more than 50 years I have cherished that flag. It represents the hope, freedom and life that the American soldiers returned to me when they found me, nursed me to health, and restored my faith in mankind. That is why today, I am working to help pass an amendment to the Constitution to protect our flag from physical desecration.
The memories of those heroes who liberated me will forever be a part of me. I show my gratitude to them for delivering me from hell every time I salute the flag that was theirs, and today is mine.
Even now, 54 years later, I am overcome with tears and gratitude whenever I see our glorious American flag, because I know what it represents not only to me, but to millions around the world.
Most of us have come here in search of freedom. The flag that we wave today has a very special meaning to me.
It reflects the hope and freedom I have enjoyed for the past 50 years.
My great appreciation of the American Flag is coupled with my gratitude, and my admiration of the American soldiers who found me, freed me from the Valley of Death, and restored my faith in God, in mankind, and gave me this flag of Freedom.
Those who come from dictatorial societies never forget how precious the Flag of Freedom is to them.
Perhaps only those who have had their humanity brutally torn from them as I did can fully appreciate this great country and what its flag represents. Yet every American, out of deference for the sacrifices that purchased and maintain their freedom should revere and honor our flag.
Protest if you wish. Speak loudly, even curse our country and our flag, but please, in the name of all those who died for our freedoms, don’t physically harm what is so sacred to me and to countless others.
When you harm our flag, you violate my freedom to protect what once protected me, liberated me, restored my human dignity and wiped away my tears. The price of desecration is too high. I support a constitutional amendment to preserve America’s dignity, America’s values, and America’s flag.
God bless America, and God bless our flag.