Dec. 21, 1918 – Dec. 29, 2015
CAMBRIA – Miron B. Wasik, who helped liberate concentration camp prisoners during World War II and later became one of Niagara County’s largest land owners, died Tuesday in his Cambria home. He was 97.
Mr. Wasik served as master sergeant with the 14th Armored Division that plowed through Europe and advanced into southern Germany, where soldiers uncovered several subcamps of the Dachau concentration camp and liberated thousands of prisoners.
Mr. Wasik, the son of Polish immigrants, spoke Polish and understood Russian, and he recalled in a 2008 interview with The Buffalo News how he was able to use his language skills to communicate with farmers and civilians and discover the whereabouts of the Nazi camps.
“I knew where the concentration camps were, 20 miles ahead, from talking to the people,” said Mr. Wasik.
Born in North Tonawanda, Mr. Wasik quit school in eighth grade to become a farmer and heavy equipment operator. He joined the Army in 1941 and rose to the rank of master sergeant within two years, landing in Marseilles, France, in 1944 to fight in the European theater of operations.
In April 1945, troops with the Army’s 14th Armored Division found several camps holding Jewish prisoners and yards filled with corpses of inmates.
Mr. Wasik talked about his role in the liberation only late in his life. He often had tears in his eyes explaining to family members what he had seen, and “sometimes he couldn’t even finish” giving his account, said his son, George.
He also spoke to young people about his experiences, as part of the Summer Institute for Human Rights and Genocide Studies, a local human rights education program.
Mr. Wasik earned two bronze stars and was discharged from service in 1945. He bought a farm at auction on Saunders Settlement Road and started growing grain and raising cattle. He also began selling construction equipment. He continued to buy land and by the 1970s, with more than 1,000 acres, was one of the largest land owners in the county.
“It was generally for farming, but if he could turn it over and make a small profit, he would turn it over, too,” said his son. He also owned property in Florida and in Alabama, where he dabbled in development projects.
Mr. Wasik donated property that was used to build the headquarters of Niagara Hospice in 1996. He also donated land in Lockport that became the site of Niagara Hospice House.
Mr. Wasik was married for 65 years to the former Nova V. Hogan, who died in 2008. In addition to his son, George, he is survived by four other sons, Bill, Dick, John and Jim; two daughters, Carolyn Wasik-Petersen and Vivian Wasik-Boyd; a brother, Frank; 23 grandchildren; 29 great-grandchildren and a great-great grand daughter.
A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, 3921 Mapleton Road, North Tonawanda.