A World War Two soldier in the Soviet Red Army who was wounded and captured by Germans will be in Iowa this week to meet some of his liberators. Sami Jalilov was imprisoned in the infamous German concentration camp Auschwitz before being taken to another camp in Italy. Near starvation, very weak and ill, Jalilov and the others were liberated in May of 1945 when U.S. troops marched in, members of the 34th Infantry Division which originated from the Iowa National Guard.
Guard spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Greg Hapgood says Jalilov will be in Des Moines for the American division’s 60th reunion today. “Certainly this is a very unique opportunity that World War Two veterans can actually meet someone that they may’ve helped liberate as a prisoner of war. I think you can expect one thing, that no matter what these World War Two veterans have seen or where they’ve been, this will have a profound emotional impact on them to actually be able to reconnect with each other,” Hapgood says.
Jalilov, now a citizen of Tajikistan, is coming to the U.S. through the Institute for Holocaust Education. He’ll be meeting relatives, students and community members in Omaha before coming to Camp Dodge and the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum for the reunion with some of the men who helped free him from his German and Italian captors.
Hapgood says: “This is extremely rare to have this kind of opportunity right here in Iowa, to have these World War Two liberators actually meet one of the former prisoners of war. We’re very excited about it and we think this is something incredibly special that won’t possibly be duplicated in the future.” After the war, Jalilov became a school teacher and was recognized by his government for his accomplishments and bestowed the title of Distinguished Educator.
Hapgood says he doesn’t know if Jalilov will be bringing any sort of gifts for the soldiers. Hapgood says: “We’re not really sure if he’s going to bring anything with him, other than he’s bringing his grandson who will be his interpreter. The biggest gift that we could have here is the ability to communicate between Mr. Jalilov and the World War Two veterans.” The U.S. Army’s 34th Infantry Division, known as the Red Bull Division, was made up in part by the Iowa National Guard’s 168th Infantry.
The meeting between Jalilov and the American veterans is scheduled for 2 P.M. on today at Camp Dodge in Johnston. Jalilov also plans to visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. during his two-week visit to the U.S.