By: E&P Staff
LeRoy “Pete” Petersohn, a printer at The Beacon-News, Aurora, Ill., for 44 years, died June 13. He was 87.
Petersohn began working at the Beacon-News when he was 18. He retired in 1987 after a career that spanned the years from lead type to digital imagesetting.
The Beacon-News reported that few who knew the soft-spoken production veteran and father of five were aware of his extraordinary experience at the end of Word War II. Among the first in his armored division in General Patton’s Third Army to liberate the main Nazi slave labor camp at Mauthausen, Austria, Petersohn found a weeks-old baby suffering from what staff writer Steve Lord described as “massive infection and open sores, barely clinging to life.”
A medic, Petersohn assisted his major in operating on the infant girl. The baby recovered and was returned to her mother, who returned to Slovakia in search of her husband.
Almost 60 years later, a chemist named Hana Berger-Moran tracked down Petersohn, using the 11th Armored Division’s website, to thank him for helping save her life. Her inquiry appears in the divison’s online guestbook. Berger-Moran fled the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, earned her PhD in Israel, and became a U.S. citizen.
They finally met, however, only when Petersohn was flown to Austria to be awarded by its president the Golden Badge of Honor, which he accepted on behalf of his division. Berger-Moran attended. They met three more times, the last just 10 months ago at a reunion of the 11th Armored Division. Its last reunion will take place this year, Lord reports.
At last August’s reunion, Petersohn told a reporter: “Many of my buddies are no longer existing. But it still is a good feeling to see those who are able to attend.”
Curiously, just two days before Petersohn died, The Norfolk (Mass.) Boomerang ran a guest column by William R. Crane detailing the experiences of the medic, the doctor and the future scientist they saved.