GAINESVILLE – Over 500 members of Riverside Military Academy's Corps of Cadets sat attentive, listening carefully to the story of 87-year-old Murray Lynn as he told them of his experience with the military when he was their age.
Lynn, however, was careful to make clear distinction between the military machine he faced seventy-two years ago in Bilke, Hungary, and the military organizations the Cadets might be considering; Lynn and his family were dealing with members of the Third Reich.
Lynn described Bilke as a small city of 30,000 people and about 200 Jewish families. The Lynn family was one of the 200.
RMA President Col. William Gallagher, U.S. Army, Retired, told the Cadets that until 1942 Lynn, “lived an idyllic life with his three brothers and his parents.”
“One night Hungarian Secret Police burst into his house at two in the morning, arrested his father, and with other Jewish community leaders marched them to the outskirts of town, into the hills, had them dig their own graves and shot them,” Gallagher said.
Two years later Lynn’s family was deported in an over-crowded railway cattle car to Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi death camp in Poland. That was the last time Lynn ever saw his mother or brothers.
A 37-minute video detailing that experience (including some startling images) brought home the horrific reality of that experience to the Corps.
Lynn told the Cadets, “What kept madness at bay was our fervent faith and blind hope for messianic redemption; it was our bromide, our opiate.”
But a genuine post-traumatic shock disorder set in and Lynn admits he still has nightmares. “Over seventy years later the sights and sounds of these nightmares continue to invade my life and my dreams.”
He shared his continued fears of riding trains – the manner of transport that took him to Auschwitz, large dogs – the means the Nazi guards used to control the prisoners, and wearing the color yellow – the color of the label mandated for all Jews to wear on their outer garments.
When it seemed like Lynn’s saga could not get more deplorable, he told of his eventual liberation and emigration to the United States in 1948. He earned his college degree in New York City and eventually moved to Atlanta where he led a successful business.
“Today I’m an expression of American exceptionalism,” Lynn said, “that’s rooted not in privilege of a few, but a concept of meritocracy and equal opportunity.”
Lynn paused, scanning the audience, and said, “Here is your noteworthy take-home message, for you students in particular: inclusion, and not exclusion, is the hallmark of a free society.”
“Cynics don’t change things,” Lynn added, “believers change things.”
Chikha Aliogo is a senior year cadet at RMA whose home is in Nigeria, and he said following the presentation, “Humanity shouldn’t experience this again, ever again, and it should constantly be a lesson for the coming generations.”