Steve Ross is a remarkable person. A Holocaust survivor, Army Veteran, family man, and a person of great faith, Steve knows the decency and goodness of America and its fighting men and women.
Steve Ross was a young boy in Poland when the Nazis invaded in 1939. His Jewish parents gave him up to a Catholic family to save him from Hitler’s S.S. Steve never saw his parents again. They were killed along with nearly all of his family. The Nazis found Steve and sent him off to ten different concentration camps; his last stop was the infamous Dachau.
During his time in the camps, Steve was worked beyond normal limits. Beatings were common and Steve lacked so much food that he was a walking skeleton of 60 pounds. He once hid in an outhouse, inside a pool of waste up to his neck, to escape Nazi punishment. There were other horrors he was subjected to that are too graphic to pen. What little time Steve had left to think Steve prayed God would see him through to freedom. In late April 1945 the U.S. Army liberated Dachau and saved the prisoners.
In May 1945, Steve and his brother were walking on a road towards a medical treatment facility. While walking they passed by an American soldier who was on top of a tank and eating rations by using his bayonet as a fork. This rough looking soldier saw Steve and immediately jumped down to give him his rations. Steve was so grateful for the food and kindness that he kissed the soldier’s boots and later recalled, "He was a good man. He looked to me rough and tough, but he knew how to put his arm around me. At that time of my life, when no one had done that before.”
The soldier pulled Steve off the ground and encouraged him in the brief moments they were together.
Soon the American convoy had to leave but before departing the soldier gave Steve a handkerchief. Steve didn’t know what the cloth was at the time but later found out that it was an American flag; the flag of freedom. Despite never seeing him again, the soldier became Steve’s hero. Steve later said, “I would say to him that he is a part of my life, part of my family. What he did for me, I emulated. I love people because of him.”
Steve carried the flag with him everywhere and in 1948, despite being illiterate, he immigrated to the United States. Steve served a stint in the U.S. Army and, with the soldier as his inspiration, he earned two Master’s degrees and became a counselor for troubled youth in Boston, Massachusetts. Steve never forgot how the American soldier, who had been trained to kill, could be so compassionate. During a dark period of Steve’s life, the single act of a soldier feeding a starving former prisoner was actually the new beginning of the rest of Steve’s life.
As Steve Ross lives out his days he was granted one more blessing. In 1989, Steve shared his story with the television show Unsolved Mysteries, hoping to find the soldier. Over 20 years passed and the soldier was not found. Someone posted Steve’s television episode on the internet site YouTube and remarkably the soldier’s family saw it. Though the soldier had died in 1986, three years before Steve’s television appearance, the soldier’s family contacted Steve and met him on Veteran’s Day 2012. Steve presented them the flag that the soldier gave him over 67 years before.
Steve’s story is a remarkable example of America. It is a reminder of American soldiers who care about the innocents of war, unlike our current opponents, and persistence in the face of supposedly insurmountable adversity. It is also an example of technology used for good in ending Hitler’s evil and in reuniting loved ones. Steve’s story is one of hope and faith that brings great comfort and perspective as we approach Veteran’s Day.
There is one final element to this story. Steve Ross’ name when he was a boy was Szmulek Rozental. After coming to the United States, Szmulek Americanized his name and chose the name Steve Ross. Upon finding the soldier’s family Steve received not only a lifelong answer to prayer but also a pleasant surprise. The soldier was named Lt. Sattler but had a rather interesting first name. Lt. Sattler’s first name was Steve.