Holocaust Survivor Searches for the Unknown Soldier who Gave Him the Will to Live
Shmulik Rosenthal, who relocated to Boston under the name Steve Ross, was a Holocaust survivor. He was held in ten different concentration camps from ages 9 to 14, the last being Dachau. He suffered unknowable pain, but found hope in the form of an unknown soldier. He long hoped to say thank you to the anonymous American GI who got him back on his feet after his flight from Germany.
Shmulik can be seen amongst the cheering prisoners in a photo taken before their liberation. He and his older brother were reunited, only to learn that their mother, father, and six siblings had all died in the camps.
Shmulik walked among American troops toward the medical stations upon release. It was there that he encountered an American soldier eating out of a can with his bayonet. The solider leapt from the tank upon which he sat and offered the can of food to Shmulik. Overcome with emotion, Shmulik fell to his knees, holding onto the soldier’s legs and kissing his boots. The soldier comforted him, something Shmulik hadn’t experienced in years.
The soldier gave him an American flag, and from then on, Shmulik felt as though his future would be bright. He took the soldier as a symbol of love despite all odds, even amongst the harshest and most unforgiving circumstances.
He considered that solider a member of his family and the reason he was able to emulate love, despite the horrors of his childhood. He believed that the soldier was in the 191st Army Tank Battalion, which was part of the 20th Armored Division, and was traveling from Dachau to Munich in May of 1945.
Shmulik and his brother relocated to America and began their own families. Under the new name Steve Ross, he became a psychologist who counseled disenfranchised teens in Boston. Mr. Ross spoke to schools and at memorials about his experiences. He would show children his numerical tattoo. In 2017, he released a memoir recounting the childhood stolen by the camps.
In 2012, Mr. Ross was finally able to thank the family of the soldier who so greatly impacted his life. His daughter, Gwen Allanson, saw the segment on Unsolved Mysteries and reached out. The soldier’s name was Steve Sattler, a Purple Heart recipient who had died in 1986. Steve Ross met the soldier’s grandchildren in a heartfelt union.
On February 25, 2020, Steve Ross passed away. Though his birth certificate was destroyed in Germany, it is believed he was 88 years old when he passed. Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh grieves this loss, saying that “Boston lost a giant, and the world quite honestly lost a giant.”
See the original Unsolved Mystery segment on this case streaming in Season 2, Episode 9 with Robert Stack and in Season 3 Episode 6 with Dennis Farina. https://unsolved.com/watch/