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In September 1941, Stein received a draft notice from the Army, and within weeks he was enlisted in the artillery. He received his U.S. citizenship in 1942. And in 1943, when the Army realized he spoke the enemy’s language, he was sent to intelligence training. By early 1944, Stein was working in Europe as an interrogator of German prisoners.
On June 6, 1944, Stein’s intelligence team sat on a boat off the coast as Allied infantry landed in Normandy, France. By that afternoon, he had made the shore. He soon was doing field interrogations.
"I was up with the infantry," Stein said. "I squeezed ⅛the prisoners⅜ for everything they knew. The only ones who resisted were the young officers."
By 1945, Stein was with the 9th Infantry Division in Bavaria and asked for permission to go to Vienna to search for his parents. But he was told Vienna was under Russian control. Permission denied.
The following year, after the war’s end, Stein connected with a Jewish organization that had tried to track Jewish prisoners. He learned that his parents had been deported to Lodz, Poland, in October 1941. "They do not appear on any survivor lists," a letter informed Stein.
Stein stayed in the Army, translating documents for the Nuremberg war crimes commission and then doing a stint in Korea during the Korean War. He met his wife, Barbara, an Air Force member from Iowa, at a base in Japan in 1953. They were married in 1954 and had three sons and seven grandchildren, all of whom live in Northern Virginia.
The Steins moved to Vienna, Va., in 1963, and Stein joined the State Department in 1965. He retired in 1978. His wife passed away in 2003.
In the summer of 1993, Stein read that the Holocaust Museum was looking for volunteers. He has worked in visitor services ever since and is at the donations desk every Friday.
In 1995, Stein made an appointment with the museum’s archivist. He asked whether the museum had any information about the Lodz ghetto. He learned that investigators had recently recovered German records from the Polish army. Stein was given five large volumes to pore through.
In there, a son discovered the fate of his parents. In January 1942, Austrians in Lodz were being selected for "work" and placed in large windowless vans. Stein learned that his parents were placed in such a van and taken to the Chelmno extermination camp, where they were gassed on Feb. 28, 1942. The Holocaust Museum states that Chelmno was the first stationary facility where poison gas was used for mass murder of Jews.
"My mother was 48, my father was 58," Stein said. "Now I know what to do every Feb. 28."
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