Sidney Shachnow, Holocaust survivor who became US Army major general, dies at 83

NEW YORK — Sidney Shachnow, who survived the Holocaust as a child and fought in Vietnam as an Army Green Beret before becoming a major general, died Sept. 27 at a hospital in Pinehurst, N.C. He was 83.

He lived in the nearby town of Southern Pines.

Mr. Shachnow was involved in some of the biggest events of the 20th century, from enduring the horrors of Nazi-controlled Europe to leading US Army troops in Berlin during the fall of the Berlin Wall.

He served in the Army Special Forces for more than 30 years, a career that was informed by a childhood spent avoiding death. It came full circle when he lived in a house in Berlin that was once owned by Adolf Hitler’s finance minister.


‘‘He was a really, really tough guy,’’ said LeeAnne Shachnow Keister, one of Mr. Shachnow’s three daughters.

‘‘The odds were against him,’’ she said. ‘‘But he had a really strong work ethic. And I think that’s what got him through to where he was in the military.’’

When Mr. Shachnow was 6 or 7 years old, his Lithuanian Jewish family was forced into a Nazi concentration camp. Very few prisoners survived.

‘‘I developed an instinct for survival,’’ he wrote in ‘‘Hope and Honor: A Memoir of a Soldier’s Courage and Survival,’’ a book he wrote with Jann Robbins. ‘‘If I saw any kind of trouble, I hid,’’ he wrote. ‘‘I learned to disappear into an alley, a doorway, or behind a shrub.’’

He was eventually smuggled to safety, living in a Catholic family’s cellar. But life was tough even after the Soviets liberated Lithuania.

He begged for food and sold pantyhose and chocolate on the thriving black market, his daughter said.

In 1950, he and his family arrived in Salem, Mass., where he met his future wife, Arlene. He later enlisted in the Army as a private before going on to officer candidate school and volunteering for Special Forces.


He eventually went to Vietnam. He went on to command US forces in what was then West Berlin.

Mr. Shachnow retired as a major general in 1994. In 2016, he was among 88 former military leaders who endorsed Donald Trump for president.

He spent much of his retirement speaking about his life and working with charities, including ones helping veterans.