D-Day vet escaped Nazis, returned for vengeance

SPRINGFIELD, Va (WUSA9) -- Charles Stein landed on D-Day with vengeance driving him forward. The Nazis had wiped out his entire family. And he suspects if he had encountered any prisoners on the beaches of Normandy, he would have killed them.

This Friday marks the 70th Anniversary of the biggest seaborne invasion ever and the beginning of the end of World War Two. It is likely the last time large numbers of vets gather in the cemetery at Colleville Sur Mer.

Stein is one of the few remaining vets who both escaped the Nazis and came back to fight on D-Day. "Somehow I think I should have killed more Germans," said Stein, 94.

He grew up in Austria and was in medical school when the Nazis invaded. When Hitler paraded through Vienna to the cheers of people he had once considered friends, he rushed home. "I said this is it," he remembers, "when I saw how Vienna reacted. That's why I went home and said, we've got to start packing."

Stein made it out, and eventually escaped to America. But his beloved parents did not. They were among the first of the millions of Jews gassed by the Nazis. "My mother and my father and my uncles, my aunts, my cousins. My entire family was wiped out."

Stein was drafted exactly two years after making in to New York. 1st Lt. Charles Stein was in the second wave of landing ships off Omaha Beach. "I saw fire coming in, we saw ships going down. We were waiting for someone to hit us."

He landed around noon. "Dead soldiers. Dead soldiers all over. Bloody, headless, armless, legless."

Because he spoke German, he had been tasked to interrogate prisoners of war. But all the Germans were dead. And Stein suspects he might have killed any he had found alive. "For me, it was payback time."

In the movie "Saving Private Ryan," there is a scene where the Germans come out with their hands over their heads and the Americans kill them. Stein wishes he had the opportunity.

Every two minutes, by some estimates, we lose the voice and memory of another World War Two vet. The Veterans Administration thinks by 2036, they will all be silenced. Which is why Stein thinks it's so important to speak.

"Never again!"If you want to hear more of Charles Stein's story, you can catch him at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, where he still volunteers regularly to remember.


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