Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow

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Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow (Shachnowski)

Also Known As: "Schaja", "Szachnowski"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Kaunas (now Kovno), Kaunas City Council, Kaunas County, Lithuania
Death: September 28, 2018 (83)
Pinehurst, Moore County, North Carolina, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Leon Shachnow and Rose Shachnow (Shachnowski)
Husband of Private
Father of Private; Private; Private and Private
Brother of Mula "Stanley" Shachnow

Occupation: holocaust survivor
Managed by: Randy Schoenberg
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow

Hope and Honor: A Memoir of a Soldier's Courage and Survival by Sidney Shachnow, Jann Robbins

https://books.google.com/books?id=9Xo_CwAAQBAJ&lpg=PP1&dq=sidney%20shachnow%20hope%20and%20honor&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=sidney%20shachnow%20hope%20and%20honor&f=falsehttps://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/12/obituaries/sidney-shachnow-dead.html


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Sidney Shachnow, 83, Is Dead; Holocaust Escapee and U.S. General

By Richard Sandomir Oct. 12, 2018

Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, who escaped a Nazi labor camp in Lithuania as a boy and later rose through the ranks of the United States Army, eventually leading its forces in Berlin at the end of the Cold War, died on Sept. 27 in Pinehurst, N.C. He was 83.

His daughter LeeAnne Meister confirmed the death, at a hospital near his horse farms in Southern Pines, N.C. He had Parkinson’s disease, atrial fibrillation and polycythemia vera, a blood cancer, she said.

His path to becoming a major general began in Kaunas, also known as Kovno, a major city in south-central Lithuania, where he was born Schaja Shachnowski on Nov. 23, 1934, to Leon and Rose (Schuster) Shachnowski. His father was an engineer; his mother, a homemaker and seamstress.

The Shachnowskis were relatively prosperous Jews. But their lives were altered dramatically when they were uprooted from their home and herded into shoddy housing in a nearby ghetto that had been sealed off by the Germans. They became forced laborers for their occupiers. The ghetto was a de facto concentration camp, General Shachnow recalled many years later. Though it had no gas chambers or crematories, he said, nearly everybody there died.

“Our camp did things the old-fashioned way,” he said in a speech at Elon University, in North Carolina, in 2014. “Several bulldozers would dig a ditch; people would be asked to move to the edge of the ditch. In most cases they were naked. Automatic weapons would kill them. They would fall into the ditch, some wounded and not dead, and if you were lying on the ledge, an individual would throw you into the ditch.”

After three years of escalating brutality (in one instance a guard beat him with a shovel), his family devised an improbable but successful escape plan for him. Leaving behind his weeping parents one morning before dawn, 9-year-old Schaja hid under his Uncle Willie’s long coat as the uncle, with Schaja moving in rhythm with him, walked through the gates, passing guards and a work detail that was often sent outside the ghetto. Shortly afterward, children at the camp were liquidated.

When he and his uncle reached the streets beyond the gates of the ghetto, he said, his uncle gave him a prearranged signal to emerge from under the coat and find his contact, a woman wearing a red kerchief. Following the route he had been given, Schaja found her and followed her to temporary safety — in a storage room of a building with a table, chairs and a toilet.

She locked the door, and he wondered, he later recalled, if he had traded one imprisonment for another. “I had escaped from hell!” General Shachnow wrote in his autobiography, “Hope and Honor” (2004), written with Jan Robbins. “Or had I?”

Afterward he was taken in by a Roman Catholic family and lived with them for several months. He was then reunited with his mother, who had escaped from the camp, and his younger brother, Mula, who had been smuggled to safety disguised as a girl. For a while they lived in the family’s house in Kaunas with Soviet officers; the Red Army had by then taken control of Lithuania.

But fearing that the Communists would seal the country’s borders after the war, Schaja left with his mother and brother on a 2,000-mile trek by foot, wagon and train through Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary before settling in Furth, Germany, near Nuremberg, in the fall of 1945. His father, who had been fighting the Germans with partisans, rejoined them, and they charted a path to the United States.

In 1950 the family left Germany on a Navy transport ship and arrived in Boston. Schaja, his parents and brother settled in Salem, Mass., where relatives had preceded them to America. As they sought to assimilate — he did not speak English at first — Schaja became known as Sidney and his brother as Stanley.

Sidney attended high school but dropped out in 1955 and joined the Army. He married Arlene Armstrong — a Jewish-Catholic union that his parents opposed. “Join the new world,” he recalled telling his parents. “America, the melting pot. Have you even taken a step into this world? You both live in the past!”

Starting as an infantry private, he rose to captain in the Special Forces, or Green Berets, in 1962 and fought in Vietnam, twice receiving the Silver Star for valor.

Transferred to West Berlin in 1970, he was given command of Detachment (A), an elite Special Forces unit that conducted clandestine intelligence missions in Eastern Europe. He led it for four years. “They served on the front lines of the Cold War and never fired a shot in anger,” General Shachnow told Task & Purpose, a national security news website, last year. “No force of its size in history has contributed more to peace, stability and freedom.”

After other postings, including as director of the United States Special Operations Command in Washington, he returned to West Berlin as the Army’s commanding officer in 1989, when events were unfolding that would lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany.

As a German-speaking combat veteran, General Shachnow was well suited to serve in Berlin. But as a Holocaust survivor, he was confronted with what he felt was delicious irony: His headquarters had been those of the powerful Nazi official Hermann Göring, and his residence had once belonged to Fritz Reinhardt, a finance minister under Hitler.

“Here it is, the very capital of fascism and the Third Reich,” General Shachnow once told The Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina. “The very buildings and streets where they were goose-stepping and Heil-Hitlering, and the very system that put me in the camp and killed many people.”

After leaving Berlin, he was appointed commander of the Special Forces and commanding general of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C. While in the service he received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska and a master’s degree in public administration from Shippensburg State College (now Shippensburg University) in Pennsylvania. He retired from the Army in 1994.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, General Shachnow helped organize an endorsement of Donald J. Trump by 88 retired military leaders. They said they believed that Mr. Trump would make a “long overdue course correction in our national security posture.”

In addition to his wife and his daughter LeeAnne, he is survived by three other daughters, Sheree Gillette, Michelle Batiste and Denise Smith; 14 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; and his brother.

General Shachnow said that flexibility, tenacity and assertiveness were among the qualities that had helped him survive the Holocaust. “Unavoidable suffering can give you meaning in life,” he said in the Elon University speech. “For me, my military experience, my experience in a concentration camp and my relationship with my wife gave me meaning.”



https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/name/Sidney-Shachnow-obituary?pid=190408407&affiliateid=1733

Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, Special Forces legend, Holocaust survivor, has died

By Drew Brooks Military editor

 	

Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow survived three years in a Nazi concentration camp, he deployed twice to the jungles of Vietnam and he was the top U.S. Army officer in Berlin at the end of the Cold War. Along the way, the general became a legendary Special Forces officer, revered by many in the close-knit community of Green Berets.

Maj. Gen. Shachnow, 83, who lived in Southern Pines with his wife, Arlene, died Friday. But his legacy, officials said, will live on.

Born in Lithuania in 1934, Maj. Gen. Shachnow faced oppression in his homeland and found his calling in the U.S. Army after immigrating to America in 1950. He enlisted in the military in 1955 and served for more than 39 years, including 32 in the Special Forces community.

His top posts included leadership of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School and U.S. Army Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg and U.S. Army-Berlin in Germany.

“Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow truly lived the American dream,” said officials at the Special Warfare Center and School, which the general commanded from 1991 until his retirement in 1994. “He came up through the ranks from private to major general through hard work and selfless service to this nation and the men and women under his command.”

“Even in retirement, Maj. Gen. Shachnow remained committed to the Special Forces Regiment, serving in a variety of volunteer roles and serving on a number of boards,” officials said. “He continued to provide sage guidance and sound counsel to commanders throughout the enterprise, and specifically here at the Special Warfare Center and School. Maj. Gen. Shachnow cast a long shadow, and we will miss him dearly.”

Maj. Gen. Shachnow is survived by his wife, four daughters and more than a dozen grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 13 at Boles Funeral Home in Southern Pines.

As a 6-year-old boy, the general was among thousands of Jews held prisoner at the Kovno concentration camp near Kaunus, Lithuania. He lived in the camp for more than three years before being liberated.

In 1994, Maj. Gen. Shachnow told The Fayetteville Observer that the experience of the concentration camp left a deep mark on him. “After I finished that experience, I was very cynical about people,″ he said. “I didn’t trust people. I thought that there is a dark side to people. If you leave things to people, they’ll probably screw things up.″

The U.S. Army helped Maj. Gen. Shachnow regain his faith in his fellow man. After moving to the United States, Maj. Gen. Shachnow began a new life with his family in Massachusetts, but dropped out of school to enlist in the Army, despite hardly being able to speak English.

He later attended Officer Candidate School as a sergeant first class and was commissioned in 1960 as an infantry officer, according to his military biography. He served with the 4th Armored Division until 1962, when he volunteered for Special Forces.

Maj. Gen. Shachnow served with the 5th Special Forces Group and commanded the secretive “Detachment A,” a small team of Special Forces soldiers who operated in Berlin during the Cold War and prepared for possible war with the Soviet Union.

In 1990, Maj. Gen. Shachnow was the commander of all American forces in Berlin when the Berlin Wall was toppled, near the end of the Soviet Union. He told The Fayetteville Observer that the history of the moment was not lost on him. “Here it is the very capital of fascism and the Third Reich. The very buildings and streets where they were goose-stepping and heil-Hitlering and the very system that put me in the camp and killed many people,” he said. “Here we are 40 some-odd years later, and I come back to be commander of American forces in that city and a Jew on top of that… It sort of adds insult to injury, doesn’t it?″

While serving in infantry, airborne, airmobile and Special Forces units, Maj. Gen. Shachnow also earned degrees from the University of Nebraska and Shippensburg State College in Pennsylvania. And he received an honorary doctorate from the Harvard Executive Management Program.

Maj. Gen. Shachnow was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment in 2007. During his military career, his awards and decorations included two Distinguished Service Medals, two Silver Stars, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts, among other honors. He also was honored with the U.S. Special Operations medal for outstanding contributions to the special operations community and is included on the honor roll in the Infantry Officers’ Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Following his retirement, Maj. Gen. Shachnow authored a best-selling autobiography, “Hope and Honor,” which was published in 2004.

The late Col. Aaron Bank, known as the “father of the Green Berets,” once called Maj. Gen. Shachnow a “determined, dedicated, dyed-in-the-wool Special Forces officer.”

And Bob Charest, a veteran of Detachment A who twice served under Maj. Gen. Shachnow, said the general would be remembered as one of the greatest leaders in Special Forces history. “He stood out throughout his career,” Charest said. “He is quite an icon among Special Forces troops.”

Military editor Drew Brooks can be reached at dbrooks@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3567.


https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/12/obituaries/sidney-shachnow-dead.html#click=https://t.co/2SVYAL7hh6

Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, who escaped a Nazi labor camp in Lithuania as a boy and later rose through the ranks of the United States Army, eventually leading its forces in Berlin at the end of the Cold War, died on Sept. 27 in Pinehurst, N.C. He was 83.

His path to becoming a major general began in Kaunas, also known as Kovno, a major city in south-central Lithuania, where he was born Schaja Shachnowski on Nov. 23, 1934, to Leon and Rose (Schuster) Shachnowski. His father was an engineer; his mother, a homemaker and seamstress.

The Shachnowskis were relatively prosperous Jews. But their lives were altered dramatically when they were uprooted from their home and herded into shoddy housing in a nearby ghetto that had been sealed off by the Germans. They became forced laborers for their occupiers.

He escaped under the coat of his uncle.

Afterward he was taken in by a Roman Catholic family and lived with them for several months. He was then reunited with his mother, who had escaped from the camp, and his younger brother, Mula, who had been smuggled to safety disguised as a girl. For a while they lived in the family’s house in Kaunas with Soviet officers; the Red Army had by then taken control of Lithuania.

In 1950 the family left Germany on a Navy transport ship and arrived in Boston. Schaja, his parents and brother settled in Salem, Mass., where relatives had preceded them to America. As they sought to assimilate — he did not speak English at first — Schaja became known as Sidney and his brother as Stanley.

Later he dropped out of high school and joined the US Army.

After other postings, including as director of the United States Special Operations Command in Washington, he returned to West Berlin as the Army’s commanding officer in 1989, when events were unfolding that would lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany.

As a German-speaking combat veteran, General Shachnow was well suited to serve in Berlin. But as a Holocaust survivor, he was confronted with what he felt was delicious irony: His headquarters had been those of the powerful Nazi official Hermann Göring, and his residence had once belonged to Fritz Reinhardt, a finance minister under Hitler.

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Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow's Timeline

1934
November 23, 1934
Kaunas (now Kovno), Kaunas City Council, Kaunas County, Lithuania
2018
September 28, 2018
Age 83
Pinehurst, Moore County, North Carolina, United States