THOMASTON, Maine — Pvt. Leonard Marchlewski was a U.S. Army medic who saw plenty of death and destruction on the front lines of the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. Despite being hardened by one of the deadliest campaigns of World War II, however, he and the other members of his battalion were not prepared for what they encountered four months later when they liberated a Nazi concentration camp in northern Germany.

“There were standing ghosts, standing skeletons,” Noel March of Hampden recalled his father telling him about the liberation of Langenstein-Zweiberge on April 11, 1945.

The scene had a great impact on the liberators. March said his father suffered weekly nightmares, and would wake up screaming in a cold sweat and then walk around the house during the night.

“It shook his faith in religion and in man,” March said.

On the 70th anniversary of the liberation, Noel March will be at the site that is now a museum and will speak about his father and the lessons learned from the Holocaust. He will be joined by his sister, daughter, and two neighbors.

The Langenstein-Zweiberge camp, located near Halberstadt, Germany, held up to 7,000 prisoners who were forced to build a tunnel in the Martz mountain range where the German military hoped to continue to produce Junker aircraft and V-2 rockets. A third of the prisoners died in the forced labor camp and those who survived were emaciated and near death.

March said his father had never spoken of what he witnessed in the war until last year, his final year of life. Leonard March, who in the 1950s shortened and Americanized his last name, died in November.

The younger March, who is the state’s U.S. marshal, recalled a time when he was 14 years old and had been rummaging through his father’s belongings in a trunk in the basement. That’s when he found his father’s military uniform and a yellowed newspaper published out of Waterbury, Connecticut, that featured a front page photo of his father, the soldier, at the concentration camp.

“When my father got home from work late that night, I showed the paper to him and asked him about it. He snapped it from my hand and said ‘Go do your homework,’” March said.

The two never spoke of his father’s military service again until last year when Noel March came across the same photograph online and emailed it to his father.

“He talked with me at length on the phone. This was the longest conversation we had,” March said.

His father told him that the battalion members had heard rumors about camps where Jews, Poles and other people considered undesirable by the Nazis had been taken.

“He said he could smell the camp before he got there. The smell of death,” March said.

The prisoners who had been left behind were too weak to be taken by the Germans on a so-called death march toward Berlin. The U.S. Holocaust Museum reported that the camp occupants weighed only 80 pounds on average and they died at a rate of 25 to 30 per day even after the camp was liberated because of their poor health.

The commander of the 78th Medical Battalion of the 8th Armored Division was Capt. Bernard Metrick. Metrick, a retired dentist living in Boca Raton, Florida, who will turn 99 in two months, said in a telephone interview last week that he remembers Pvt. Marchleweski.

“He was a young man at the time. He was a good medic, a brave man,” Metrick said. He recalled Marchleweski never hesitating to go to the front lines in an ambulance to pick up and treat wounded soldiers.

Metrick said when he went into the first of the 42 barracks at the camp, he was met with dead bodies. As he was walking through with a general who would oversee war crime investigations, one of the bodies moved. The man was barely able to talk and said the Germans had taken the other prisoners toward Berlin and left those who were too weak at the camp with no food or water.

March said his father told him last year, “We saw things we could never unsee.”

Leonard Marchlewski had been attending seminary school in Pennsylvania in 1943 when at 19 years old he made the decision to join the Army. He did not want to take up arms and kill people but wanted to help so he became a medic. But during the battles leading up to and including the Battle of the Bulge, he and other medics had to carry a weapon and fight.

After the war, Noel March’s father went to pharmacy school at the University of Connecticut and then opened up a pharmacy in Naugatuck, Connecticut. His father ran that pharmacy for decades.

March said his father’s war experiences did not leave him bitter but instead he was a kind and considerate man. March worked in the pharmacy as a child with his father and recalls many Polish widows coming into the pharmacy who could only speak Polish and his father would translate medical instructions from their doctors.

It was after his father died last year that March contacted the Langenstein-Zweiberge Memorial Museum and offered to donate a copy of the photograph he had obtained of his father during the liberation. The director not only accepted, but invited March to attend and speak at 70th anniversary ceremonies planned for this weekend.

March, who saw an opportunity to pass along his father’s story to the next generations, readily agreed. He, his 12-year-old daughter Chloe, his sister Micaela March-Zwick of Thomaston, his Hampden neighbor John Nickels, and Nickels’ 14-year-old son Bryce have joined March on the trip to Germany.

March will address participants in a remembrance ceremony Saturday, April 11, at the memorial museum in Halberstadt. The Mainer, who also plays the guitar and sings, will perform the song “Get Together,” accompanied by a youth group from Germany on Sunday during a memorial service at the museum.

The other members of his party also are looking forward to the opportunities to attend the ceremonies.

March-Zwick said she taught eighth grade for many years and one of the required reading projects was the “Diary of Anne Frank” which tells the experience of a young Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis for two years during the war until her family was captured. She ultimately died in a concentration camp.

Chloe March said she believes that learning about these events can help build a bridge of understanding for all people.

Bryce Nickels said he is a World War II buff and he felt the trip would be a great educational opportunity for him, saying it may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

March said it is vitally important for young people to know what happened at these camps. With hundreds of World War II veterans dying every day, soon there will be no one left to give firsthand accounts, he said, and that is why the next generations must learn from those veterans’ experiences.

March said the anniversary of the liberation of the camp is also an opportunity for different groups to get together.

“If I’ve learned anything from the past 35 years in law enforcement it’s that if you fail to listen and understand and help one another, society and civilization are at risk of falling apart. We’ve seen that in Rwanda, in Ferguson, [Missouri] and in the Middle East,” March said.