Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, left, shakes hands with Army Reserve Capt. Michael Gisser, rabbi and chaplain at Wake Forest University, as Gisser receives a certificate of appreciation for being the guest speaker during a Holocaust remembrance observance April 17.

Sam Gisser was 21 years old and weighed 45 pounds when he was liberated from a Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany the spring of 1945.

Gisser, from Lodz, Poland, was among four immediate family members out of 36 who survived the Holocaust. He lived with more than 36 others in a two-bedroom home in the ghetto as well as Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dachau concentration camps. But, not everyone who entered the camps survived. About 6 million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.

His son, Capt. Michael Gisser, joined the Army in 2011 and serves as rabbi and chaplain for the Army Reserve’s 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion in Greensboro, N.C. “I joined the military as a tribute to my dad,” said Gisser, guest speaker at a Holocaust National Days of Remembrance event April 17 at Club Hood. “He was liberated by American soldiers.”

Gisser said the event was aimed at noticing the warning signs to ensure another mass murder or genocide of this volume doesn’t happen again. “When the (U.S. Holocaust Memorial) Museum established the Days of Remembrance ... it was really to give a sense of what (U.S. soldiers) saw and to really ensure that that kind of man-to-man horror never happens again,” Gisser said. “It’s not about the victims, but the lessons learned from that.”

Capt. Karyn Berger, rabbi and chaplain for 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Fires Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, helped plan the ceremony.

“The tragedy of the Holocaust and any genocide is that it never had to happen. All it would have taken is enough people at the right time, standing up and doing what they knew to be right,” Berger said. “There are a lot of things you can get from the (Holocaust), but the most important thing is (knowing) that what you do really matters. ... It’s doing what’s right and making the world a better place.”

Maj. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division and current senior post commander, said the observance was to remember how one of the world’s most advanced nations embraced a policy aimed at the annihilation of the Jewish people.

“Some people may ask, ‘Why have an observance devoted to such a dark subject,’” Ierardi said. “It’s a reminder that the words ‘never again’ do not refer to the past. They refer to the future. ... If we remember, we will, as our soldiers did, look its evil in the face (because) memory is our duty to the past and memory is our duty to the future.”

Contact Sarah Rafique at or (254) 501-7549. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

I'm the education reporter at the Killeen Daily Herald. Follow me on Twitter at

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