EL PASO -- At 91, retired Army intelligence officer Albert Rosenberg is still haunted by the list of airmen he found at the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany near the end of World War II.

Now he is looking to the White House for help in what may be the last mission of his life.

Photo gallery: EP man collected evidence at Nazi camp

In April 1945, Rosenberg was a lieutenant in a special unit that Gen. Dwight Eisenhower ordered to collect evidence at Buchenwald, which had recently been liberated by Allied soldiers.

When Rosenberg learned that President Barack Obama would visit the site of the concentration camp Friday, he remembered recovering a list of 321 airmen with the U.S. Army Air Forces and the British Royal Air Force -- men captured by the Nazis and held at Buchenwald.

With these fliers still on his mind, Rosenberg on May 21 sent a copy of the list to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. He included a handwritten note of explanation and a copy of his military identification.

As of Thursday, he still had not heard anything back from Washington.

"What became of these fliers, we could not determine in 1945," Rosenberg wrote to Emanuel. "It can be assumed that many may have perished or moved in death transports to the interior of Nazi-held territory."

Rosenberg was a commanding officer of Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, an intelligence unit that reported to Eisenhower. On April 11, 1945, U.S. forces discovered the Buchenwald concentration camp, which had been abandoned by Nazi guards in the waning days of the war in Europe.

Soon after, Eisenhower dispatched Rosenberg to the camp to gather evidence and to take testimonies from 20,000 former prisoners who remained there. An estimated 250,000 people were thought to have been held captive at Buchenwald during its existence.

"Our orders were -- because of General Eisenhower's firsthand encounter with what those places looked like -- to investigate what really happened in that particular camp," Rosenberg said Thursday in an interview at his El Paso apartment. "The allied governments wanted to know what happened in those camps."

Rosenberg and his unit took written testimonies from hundreds of concentration camp survivors. They found that prisoners from 13 countries -- some high-ranking government officials, others soldiers -- were dehydrated, starving and suffering from disease.

Though the Nazis bombed the concentration camp's administrative building as they abandoned Buchenwald, Rosenberg's unit was able to recover documents unintentionally left behind, he said.

"Among my papers that I have kept, I came across typewritten pages that were part of our original report, which lists the name, rank and serial numbers of American pilots who had been shot down during the war by the Nazis and who had been prisoners at the concentration camp," Rosenberg said. "They no longer were at the camp. I have no idea what happened to them."

Rosenberg said he hoped that Obama's visit to the old concentration camp would refocus some attention on the list he found.

The findings of the Su preme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force unit were presented to the U.S. government in a report in 1945. The report was quickly classified because many of the surviving prisoners were communist government officials from Italy and France. If publicized, the report could have stymied U.S. cooperation with those countries, Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg never learned whether the Buchenwald report was declassified. But he learned that the original copy of the report was kept at a National Archives depository in Virginia, in box 149, before a fire in the 1970s destroyed it.

All copies of the report were thought to have disappeared until Rosenberg resurfaced with his. In 1995, the testimonies and evidence he collected were translated from German to English and published in a book,,"The Buchenwald Report," by David Hackett.

"For decades people had been looking for that report," Rosenberg said.

For Rosenberg, who taught at UTEP after his military career, Buchenwald represents a painful gap in his knowledge.

"... I do not know, have the families of those prisoners, American fliers, ever been identified? Did they survive? I don't know."

Darren Meritz may be reached at dmeritz@elpasotimes.com; 546-6127