NEWFANE, N.Y. (WIVB) – A story about one Newfane man’s journey to learn what happened to his grandfather who was killed in a concentration camp during world war II.
What happened to him was a mystery, to his own parents for decades.
Ron Altbach grew up in a small town.
But the classically trained pianist didn’t have a traditional path: He said, “My friends came over, and formed a band and recorded a song called, “Dancing In the Moonlight, which is a remarkable phenomena.”
Recording hit songs, and playing with a little band called: The Beach Boys.
Music has been his story, both past and present. But now, an unexpected twist about where he came from.
Almost 2 years ago, he got a call from a long lost cousin-living in Prague. Altbach said, “She said, “my grandfather was your grandfather’s brother. I was shocked because i hadn’t heard anybody had survived anything.”
Growing up, the horrors of the Holocaust, were not something that was dinner table conversation for the Altbachs. “There was very little talk about that era,” said Altbach.
All he knew, was his father stayed three months in Dachau, a German concentration camp. He also new his grandfather, Nathan Kusznier, was killed in a concentration camp.
Altbach said, “We didn’t know where, how or when.”
Altbach’s cousin had learned that, and more. She found Altbach’s grandfather died at Theresienstadt, which was a camp built to mislead the rest of the world about the killing of the Jews.
He siad, “The Nazi’s made it into a model town, so they could show, “look the Jews are fine!” Of course they crammed 50 thousand people into horrible conditions, but at least from the outside, it looked like a town.”
As part of this “camp with dignity” a small number of Jews were given a proper burial. Altbach said, “Each person who died was cremated, and their remains were put in a container a wooden container.”
In the 1950’s, the remains of murdered prisoners were found. A construction worker had come across these rumored remains. Altbach said, “The first one he saw, had the name Nathan Kusznier, and that was my grandfather yeah.”
The discovery is something that’s changed everything for Altbach. He said, “It became very personal, and extremely emotional. It still is.”
It is Jewish tradition to bury and free the soul after someone dies. Altbach plans to return to Prague or Israel, to bury his grandfathers ashes. It’s something to give closure to his family’s story.