By Bianca Castro
NBCDFW (Fort Worth, Texas)
It’s been 70 years since Jack Repp of Dallas was liberated from Dachau concentration camp as a Nazi prisoner.
Repp was invited back to Germany this year for a special commemoration ceremony and it was the first time he’d been back since his liberation.
His story starts out in Poland, as a 15-year-old school boy on September 1, 1939, the day Germans invaded.
He remembers the words his father told them that night.
“He says ‘son, you see these Germans? They’ll be down here but not for too long. 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, they’ll be gone,” Repp recounted.
However, as we know now, those few days became six years of genocide.
Repp was separated from his family and sent to a slave labor at first. He remembers arriving and seeing bodies stacked up at the entrance.
“They stacked up people like you stack up wood. People were laying down there 30 days 40 days,” said Repp.
From there, he was sent to Dachau, the Nazi’s first concentration camp. To 96 pounds, he survived starvation and disease as he joined the resistance and stole from a munitions factory for the underground.
“Your system gets nothing to eat, nothing to drink and you got people that are dying right and left you lay on dead people you sit on dead people,” recalled Repp.
He spent years surrounded by death until the day he was liberated by American soldiers.
“They picked us up and they took us away and the first thing they did… they undressed, burnt our clothes, showered us,” recalled Repp. “For the first time in six years, they put us in a bed with pajamas. At that time I found out I was 21-years-old. I weighed 69 pounds.”
Those memories came flooding back in May of this year when Repp returned Dachau for a 70th anniversary special commemoration ceremony to honor survivors and former liberators.
He toured the grounds where he was once held prisoner.
Plaques mark the barracks, which are now gone, but many of the buildings remain, including the crematorium.
“I tell you what. When I actually fell and I broke down… the crematorium. I got in the exact place where I was laying there in line. That’s where I broke down. I made a prayer for the people who died,” said Repp.
Today, only a handful of Dachau survivors are still alive. Repp, however, has made it his mission to tell his story to others, in hopes of ‘keeping hope alive,’ he said.
“There are a 1,400,000 people who didn’t make it out of there. God was good to me.”
Repp is currently a speaker for the Dallas Holocaust Museum.