By Hillary S. Meeks
Killeen Daily Herald
On May 10, 1945, 20-year-old Rosmary Eager found freedom.
After three years of sleeping on concrete, eating a thin soup once a day and cleaning bricks, Eager walked away from the suffering of Dachau, a World War II German concentration camp.
Even at 82 years old, Eager's eyes water for the suffering of others, not her own.
"I think about how many thousands are laying there underground, and nobody knows about it. Nobody remembers them," she said Thursday during an anniversary celebration of the day she was liberated.
Eager is confined to a wheelchair now and lives at Indian Oaks Nursing Home in Harker Heights. She has been in hospice care for the past three months. Dar Evans, Heritage Care Hospice chaplain, said Eager is "one of those rare patients who lifts us up when we see her."
Eager keeps a printed record of her story, recording the hardships she faced after being put in Dachau when she was 17. Her imprisonment was a harsh change from her happy childhood in Czechoslovakia, where she was born on Jan. 5, 1925. She grew up near the forest in the mountains and gained a great love of animals from her forest ranger father.
"He would bring home baby squirrels, and we would nurse them with bottles," Eager recalled Thursday, after spotting squirrels through the windows of Indian Oaks Nursing Home.
Eager was imprisoned by the Nazis while she was attending a university in Prague.
"She had only been attending for three semesters when she came back to her dorm room one day to find an SS agent, one of Hitler's special guards, waiting for her," her biography states. "He handed her a brown jacket, part of a uniform worn by Hitler supporters. Rosmary responded: It's not mine, I've never seen it before.' He did not believe her, accused her of stealing, and beat her into unconsciousness."
When she woke up, she was in Dachau, branded with the number 128431 in her left armpit. Her existence there, along with many other prisoners, was a miserable one for the next three years until U.S. soldiers liberated them on May 10, 1945.
"The first one I saw was a black guy, he was the first black guy I had ever seen. The guard had told us, He'll eat you alive,' so everyone was hiding behind me. I was the only one who spoke English," Eager said.
Soon, she and the other prisoners realized the black soldier was there to help, not harm them. He gave them blankets, candy and stew. Eager recalls the stew was very good, but it made everyone sick because they were not used to such rich food.
According to her biography, Eager and three other freed prisoners survived in the woods near Dachau for a week, surviving on pine sap until a military policeman found them. She was taken to a hospital in Munich, where she worked as a housekeeper for three years. In 1958, she was reunited with her mother, who lived in East Germany at that time.
In 1978, she married an American soldier, who brought her to the United States. He died from malaria in 1985, at Fort Hood's Darnall Army Community Hospital. She lived in Nolanville with five dogs before moving into Indian Oaks.
"She just loves animals, and they love her just as much," said Gwen Dalton, a hospice nurse who has been caring for Eager.
Her love also extends to people, in the form of handmade items. Evans, the hospice chaplain, said Eager is constantly crocheting blankets for other people.
"It keeps me busy and makes somebody happy," Eager said.
Evans said Eager is a positive person who is always putting others before herself.
"Even in the situation she is in, she is one of those who is constantly reaching out to other people. She is very focused on others, even in the midst of her own suffering," he said. "She has had a very hard life, but still, she hasn't turned bitter."
Contact Hillary S. Meeks at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7464