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Many veterans were among the large crowd gathered to honor Arthur Seltzer and watch the premier of his film biography. Seated from left were Arthur and Mildred Seltzer with Colonel Robert von Bargen, USAF Retired; and (back row, from left), Larry Rosenthal, Jewish War Veterans NJ State commander, and Col. Nelson Mellitz, USAF, Retired.
Since he broke the silence and started talking about his experiences as a U.S. soldier during World War II some 15 years ago, Arthur Seltzer has been a highly sought-after chronicler of history. His eyewitness accounts of storming the beach at Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, and liberating concentration camp prisoners has mesmerized thousands who have had the privilege of hearing him speak at school and community events. He has been featured in numerous news stories and also recorded his story for oral history archives.
And now, at age 91 and no longer able to travel to schools by doctor’s orders, Seltzer is the subject of a documentary created by the Armed Forces Heritage Museum, to memorialize his complete story. At the premier screening, which took place at Spring Hills Cherry Hill Assisted Living, he watched the movie with fellow members of Jewish War Veterans Post 126, his wife Mildred, as well as educators associated with the JCRC’s Goodwin Holocaust Museum and Education Center who have worked with him through the years.
Seltzer was a student at the University of Pittsburgh when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Trained as a communications specialist, he was deployed among the second wave of soldiers charging the beaches of Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. It was “the longest day in my life,” he recalls in the film.
The film features Seltzer interviewed by Colonel Robert Von Bargen, a retired veteran of the Air Force who is president of the Armed Forces Heritage Museum, which is in midst of raising money to build a physical presence at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
Highlights include Seltzer’s first-hand accounts of the liberation of Dachau concentration camp near Munich, Germany. As he relates, the U.S. soldiers had no idea what they had stumbled upon at first. When they broke open the chain link fences, they were shocked to learn about the people who looked like walking skeletons in white and black pajamas. The memories of the piles of emaciated bodies and crematoria filled with the ashes of human remains will never leave him, he said.
The stories Seltzer tells in the movie are very familiar to Tom Rosenberg, a history teacher at Cherry Hill East. Seltzer’s annual visits to Rosenberg’s U.S. History II students were a highlight of the year.
“He was a gift. He brought a perspective about the war that students could never get from a book,” said Rosenberg. “He was honest, and insightful. He really helped bring the lessons to life.”
Seltzer, a resident of Spring Hills, said he would have continued speaking to Rosenberg’s class and to others, but his doctor told him he has to slow down. He is both glad he was able to talk to students for so long and that now there is a full account of his stories available for future generations.
The movie will be available through the GHMEC.