Holocaust Survivor Notices Familiar Detail About Charlottesville Rally Leader

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Matthew Heimbach in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 14, 2017, wears a Codreanu shirt.
Matthew Heimbach in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 14, 2017, wears a Codreanu shirt.Credit: Steve Helber/AP

Jack Rosenthal's memories of fear "felt much closer" while watching coverage of the events in Charlottesville in which one person died and 30 were injured as a result of violent clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters in Virginia on August 12. 

Rosenthal, an 88-year-old refugee who came to America as the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust, told the Huffington Post about an interesting detail he noticed about the events surrounding Charlottesville.

While reading about James Alex Fields Jr.'s court proceedings, the man who killed a woman when he drove a car into a crowd of demonstrators, Rosenthal noticed familiar pictures on one of the "Unite the Right" rally organizers' shirts. Matthew Heimbach, who protested the judge's decision to deny Fields' bail, wore a shirt with a picture of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, who led the Romanian Legion of Saint Michael the Archangel and Iron Guard parties, both of which were connected to the Nazi party. Codreanu was one of the leaders behind Romanian pogroms in the 1930s, during which tens of thousands of Jews died.

"I recognized the name right away," he said, "it brings back memories and I'm concerned about what could happen in this country."

Rosenthal grew up in a northern Romanian farming village, and at 16 was deported to Auschwitz. He later worked in the Buchenwald camp, and was liberated by U.S. forces in 1945. He then emigrated alone to the U.S., where he became a real estate agent.

He continued, "You cannot compare fascism and Nazis to the other people protesting. Maybe there are people on both sides who are misguided, but there is simply no comparison. It's 70 years after the war and it still has a tremendous impact on me. It's something I'll never forget and that'll always be with me as long as I live."

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