Alan W. Lukens ’46, a retired Foreign Service officer, described his experience as a World War II soldier who helped to liberate the Dachau concentration camp in Germany during a Veterans Day observance Nov. 11 in the University Chapel. Lukens was part of the U.S. Army’s 20th Armored Division when it arrived at the camp in April 1945. “Entering the camp, we were faced with an awful sight,” Lukens said. While an estimated 100,000 people had died at Dachau from 1932 to 1945, about 35,000 survived. “They all looked like skeletons,” he said. Their survival, Lukens said, was due to their faith (many religions were represented), the hope that eventually they would be rescued, and love for each other in sharing what they had.
Lukens said he had been invited to return to ceremonies at Dachau in 1995, when about 50 U.S. military veterans had attended; in 2005, when about 10 veterans participated; and last year’s 65th anniversary observance, when he was the only U.S. soldier present at the camp’s liberation to attend. Lukens said he welcomed the opportunity to tell how Dachau has changed from “a symbol of infamy to one of hope,” and urged those attending the Veterans Day observance to remember the sacrifices of so many “who have died for our country.”
Princeton paid tribute to 76 alumni veterans who died in the past year, and said that 194 University staff members are veterans.