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THE ARMY DEC.12, 1942, I WAS SENT TO FORT DIX NEW JERSEY. I WAS THEN SENT TO FORT JACKSON, COLUMBIA SOUTH CAROLINA IN THE 100TH DIVISION. AFTER A FEW MONTHS I WAS ASKED TO TAKE A TEST, AND AFTER A FEW WEEKS THEY TOLD ME I WAS LEAVING THE OUTFIT AND WAS SENT TO BOSTON UNIVERSITY IN BOSTON. THERE I WAS ENROLLED WITH MANY OTHER SOLDIERS IN A VERY INTENSIVE ENGINEERING COURSE. THIS LASTED FOR ABOUT A YEAR. THEN THE COURSE WAS ENDED DUE TO PUBLIC PRESSURE. I WAS THEN SENT TO BLACKSTONE VIRGINIA TO THE 78TH DIVISION. I WAS ASSIGNED TO F COMPANY 310 REGIMENT. THIS WAS AN INFANTRY UNIT. I TRAINED WITH THE 78TH DIVISION UNTIL WE WERE SENT OVERSEAS TO ENGLAND. WE TRAINED IN THE SOUTH OF ENGLAND, BOURNEBOUTH. WE WENT OVERSEAS BY SHIP TO FRANCE ACROSS THE ENGLISH CHANNEL. WE ARRIVED AT CHERBORGH, FRANCE WHERE WE PITCHED OUR TENTS IN THE MUDDY FIELD. A FTER A FEW DAYS WE WERE SENT TO TONGREN, BELGIUM. THE FEW DAYS IN BELGIUM WAS PREPARING OURSELVES TO GO INTO BATTLE. AFTER A FEW DAYS WE WERE SENT EAST TOWARDS GERMANY, THERE WE WERE IN THE ARDENESS FOREST. AFTER A FEW DAYS WHEN WE WERE BEING SHELLED BY THE GERMANS AND THE WEATHER WAS CRUEL, SNOWING, BLIZZARD, ETC. WE WERE GIVEN ORDERS TO MOVE TOWARDS THE GERMAN BORDER. WE CROSSED THE SABRE TOOTH ANTI TANK EMPLACEMENTS. WE SARTED CHASING THE GERMAN SOLDIERS - KILLING MANY. DEAD SOLDIERS WERE LAYING IN FROZEN POSITIONS WHERE THEY WERE KILLED. WE CAPTURED A COUPLE OF GERMAN TOWNS. THIS TOOK A FEW DAYS. WE RESTED IN THE SNOW, AND IN THE MORNING WE MOVED AHEAD. WE WERE TOLD THAT WE HAD TO TAKE THE NEXT TOWN THAT WAS CALLED KESTERNICH. THIS TOWN WAS NEXT TO A LARGE DAM CALLED THE SHAMAMUL DAM . THE GERMANS HAD THREATENED TO BLOW IT UP AND FLOOD THE VALLEY. WE TOOK THE TOWN AND THEN YOU KNOW THE REST AS I HAVE WRITTEN IN MY STORY THAT FOLLOWS. I WAS CAPTURED DEC.15, 1944 AND REMAINED A PRISONER UNTIL MAY 3, 1945, WHEN I WAS LIBERATED BY THE AMERICANS. I SPENT EIGHT MONTHS IN THE HOSPITAL RECUPERATING FROM MY ORDEAL AND WAS DISCHARGED DEC.6TH 1945. JUST AS AN AFTERTHOUGHT, I RECEIVED OVER 135 COLLEGE CREDITS FOR MY STUDIES IN BOSTON. SOL LEDERMAN, MY ARMY NO. WAS 32656447. 1
MY DISABILITY CLAIM IS C8139547. I AM RECEIVING 100 PERCENT DISABILITY FOR MY WOUNDS AND ILLNESS.
KESTERNICH and BEYOND by Sol Lederman
(Member of “American Ex-Prisoners of War”) This is a chronological account of the happenings that changed my life, beginning with December 15, 1944. The morning of December 15, 1944, our Company (F Company 310, 78th Division) received orders to advance through the hedgerows toward our taking the town of Kesternich. We jumped off through the hedgerows into the open fields. No sooner had we advanced approximately one hundred yards, we were pinned down by enemy fire. A man approximately fifteen feet to my right was suddenly hit by enemy fire. I asked where he was hit--he said in the belly. I told him to crawl back to the road and wait for the medics. That was the last I ever saw of him. I noticed that there was enemy fire coming from the haystacks in the field, which were about fifteen hundred to two thousand feet to my right. I fired a couple of rounds into the haystack, and the shooting ceased. During the time that we were pinned down, I noticed P38 American aircraft were flying overhead. After what seemed an eternity, we were told to advance ahead toward our objective. When we arrived at the top of the open area, we were in Kesternich and the enemy was gone. We received orders to dig foxholes and secure the ridge overlooking a wooded area. My squad leader, Sergeant Suskind, and I dug our foxhole. Then I realized I had to urinate, which I did, but my fingers were somewhat frost bitten, and I couldn't close my fly--What difference did it really matter? After a short time, the enemy began to shell our positions with 88mm artillery fire. A shell burst about six feet from our foxhole, and it felt like my helmet was pushed into my shoulders. Suddenly my leg, my shoulder, and my face felt wet and warm. I then realized that I was hit by shrapnel. I had no trouble maneuvering. It was getting toward dusk when our squad was told to find a basement in one of the houses and secure the house and get some rest.
Meantime, another squad had secured our positions overlooking the forest area below. We were cleaning out the basement and had men posted at the doorway to check for enemy soldiers. Suddenly, the man at the door said that there were German soldiers coming towards the house that we were in. I asked him if he was sure, and he said yes and that they were all wearing overcoats. We were told to shed our overcoats and that anyone we saw with an overcoat we should kill immediately. The Germans surrounded the house and started to throw grenades into the basement. Luckily, we all jumped into the stairs that were leading down to the basement, and no one was injured. By that time, it had gotten dark outside, and they could not discern what or how many of us were in the house. We quickly stationed another man on the other side of the door so that we had one man on either side of the door. I stationed myself about ten feet inside the door facing out. It was pitch black. The Germans started to yell "Kimmen ze rause" (come out). One man, named Beldegay, started being hysterical and said, "Let us give-up and surrender. Think of my wife and two kids". We had a much greater problem, that our B .A.R man, Hirshmann, had come to the United States in 1939 from Germany, and he was Jewish. We were very concerned about his life. In the meantime, two German soldiers were told to enter the kitchen. As soon as they stepped over the threshold, I and another man stationed at the door opened fire and killed the two Germans, who now lay dead on the threshold. Another German was sent in from the side of the house. I saw his silhouette running towards me, so I fired and must have hit him, because he went down and never moved. The Germans kept hollering for us to surrender. We could have killed many more of them because we had grenades, but Hirshmann suggested that we surrender and take our chances. The problem then arose, who would be the first to go out of the kitchen door and have to step over the two dead Germans lying there. I asked Beldegay to be the first one; since he was so adamant that we surrender. He refused, but the Germans were "hot under the collar" and yelling at us to surrender. No one would be the first to step out over the Germans that lay dead. 3
I finally decided that I would be the first one, and believe me it was scary, and I prayed that they would not kill me. I put my hands over my head after laying down my M1 in the dark kitchen, and stepped over the two dead Germans. The Germans immediately put me against the wall of the house. I thought that this was it, but instead they did the same thing with the rest of the squad--They frisked us. They took my phosphor grenade, and one of them started to play with the mechanism. I had a hard time trying to tell him to not play with it, because it would "go boom". He finally realized what I was talking about and left it alone. Then the German soldiers marched us towards their lines. We stopped at a German Aid Station, and they asked us if anyone was wounded and needed assistance. I told them that I was wounded, and they took me down into the bunker. There I met one of our Colonels and some Lieutenants whom I recognized from our regiment. The German medic checked my wounds, and I think he sprinkled some sulfur powder on them. My hands were somehow frost bitten, and he placed them next to the stove--It hurt like hell! He asked me what was inside my shirt, and I told him it was rolled-up socks--He took the six pair from me. They gave me a medic slip that had my wound, the hour, 11:30 P.M. and the date, December 15, 1944, written on the slip. We were then marched over the Shwamamul Dam to a small church where we were locked inside. I fell asleep under a bench. In the morning they took us to a house for interrogation. We were placed in the basement and were taken out one at a time to be interrogated. I was taken upstairs where there was a S.S. Captain behind a desk. I gave him only my rank, name and serial number. He then commenced to tell me that they know all about us--where we trained in the states, when we left for England, where we stayed in England, when we left for France, where we landed, etc. He dismissed me after this. He accused me of being of German descent--I told him I was of Polish descent, and that my name had one 'n' on the end. When the B.A.R man, Hirshmann, was taken upstairs the officer interrogated him and accused him of being German. He denied it, but the German S.S. officer was pretty smart. He asked him during regular conversation, interjecting in German, to give him the tent rope sticking out of his pocket, and Hirshmann instinctively reached into his pocket and gave him the rope. The officer then said, "I know that you are of German origin." When 4
Hirshmann came back downstairs, he told us what had transpired--This really made us worry for Hirshmann's welfare. They had us march until we reached some village. We ascended up a hill to a prison camp. Upon arrival at the prison camp, the Germans asked us if any of us were wounded--I said I was, and they took me to a makeshift hospital in the camp. There I was treated by a Serbian doctor who was a prisoner. I talked with him for a short time while he was dressing my wounds. Once I felt him out and felt secure with him, I told him about our problem (Hirshmann). He told me to send Hirshmann up to see him only, and he would hide his identity. I sent Hirshmann up to see the doctor, who placed him in with other badly wounded prisoners and changed his identity. That was the last time I saw him. I hope he is all right and survived the ordeal. I don't remember exactly how many days I was in various places. We were taken to another camp. I think that I was taken by truck to the next destination, which was Stalag 12B. This camp was next to the town of Limburg, Germany, which had a large railroad junction that was very important. Upon arriving at Stalag 12B, we were taken to the American compound and there began a process where we were all registered. The fellow that registered me was an American prisoner, and I told him my name, whereupon he said that I was of the Protestant religion (He knew I was a Jewish fellow from Brooklyn.). We were given a bowl of barley soup and then taken to a large warehouse about ten thousand square feet in size. There were some very sparse spots of straw on the concrete floor. A ten-gallon can was at the end of the building, which was our toilet. A few days later, I was taken out for further interrogation to a ten-by-twelve building at the end of the compound. When I entered the building, a civilian German asked me to be seated. He gave me a cigarette, lit it for me and then asked me why I had come to fight the German people; after all they did nothing to our country. He told me that he had come from uptown Manhattan, Yorkville, and that was where many people of Germanic descent lived. In answer to his question, I told him that I had read "Mine Kamp" and became so incensed that I decided to get in the Army and "kill you bastards." He then demanded that I give back the cigarette and yelled, "Rause! Rause!" I returned to the warehouse, where I was billeted. 5
There was an American Master Sergeant who was put in charge of all American prisoners in that camp. He was a collaborator. He had been with the 82nd Airborne. When a man did not behave as the German's saw fit, they would have him stand up against the barbed-wire fence all day and sometimes at night. He never listened or forwarded our complaints to the German camp authorities. On the evening of December 23rd the English Airforce were sent over to bomb the railroad junction near the camp. Unfortunately, some of the bombs hit the barracks next to the warehouse where I was billeted. The next morning, many of us were called out to police the bombed area. We had a lot of body parts to pick up. The parts were so small that you couldn't detect what belonged to what. This barrack had billeted sixty-five American officers. Many of them were ours. Sixty-five, in total, were all blown to bits. The American soldiers that did not cover-up their Jewish religion were assigned to dig out some of the unexploded bombs. We yelled that this was against the Geneva Convention, but Master Sergeant Keating, from the 82nd Airborne, did not do anything to prevent this atrocity. Some days later I was called and given six inches of ersatz bread and some blood sausage. We were told that we were going to another camp. It would take us five to six days in a boxcar jammed with American prisoners. In the boxcar, we had just about enough room to stand. At night, we would maneuver ourselves to practically lie on top of each other--for the space and to get each other's body heat. The Germans would open the door once a day to give us some watery soup. If we could reach the door, we would also empty out the bucket (toilet). After, I think, six days, we reached our destination, which was Stalag 4B in Bavaria. The boxcar doors were opened, and we marched toward the camp entrance where the overhead wrought-iron sign read "Arbiet Macht Frie" (Work makes you free). We were again registered, and I was given a German dog tag, which had a number on it and could be broken into two parts. I kept this dog tag, and always used it for identification. We were split-up and placed in small tarpaper barracks. I met many new faces from various divisions. Our rations for the day were two slices of ersatz bread and some ersatz coffee, and sometimes 6
we received some watery soup. We would be lined-up and counted every morning and evening. If someone were missing, we would have to stand for hours in the cold until the missing person was accounted for. During the day I would wander around the camp and talk to the various nationals. The English prisoners had built crystal radio receivers, so they were able to get BBC, and we were able to know how the war was going. The Germans tried to find the radios, but they hid them very well. The English showed me how to make a cup for soup or coffee. I don't remember how long I was at Stalag 4B. Suddenly, I was given six inches of ersatz bread and about six inches of blood sausage, and again I was shipped out with others in cramped boxcars to another location. We went north, through the Berlin railroad yards, and spent one night there. We were hoping that we wouldn't be caught in a bombing raid, because our boxcars were not marked as prisoners. We went east towards the Polish border, and we came to a place called Staargard. We were taken off the boxcars and marched in the bitter cold to the prison camp. At this prison camp I met Canadians, English, French, and other nationals. The first thing that I learned from other older prisoners was that you should keep yourself as clean as you can by giving yourself a "bird-bath" from one of the single cold water faucets everyday. Take off your clothes, and kill whatever lice you can find, both morning and evening. Our beds were wooden shelves with some straw. There was a stove in the small barracks, but we had to scrounge the area for anything to burn for warmth. At this camp, we could hear the Russian artillery firing towards the city of Staargard. One day it was a bitter blizzard, and we were given a French coat (blue), a blanket (such as it was), and some bread. In the morning, we were evacuated from the camp in the blizzard. It was blowing like hell, and we were miserable. I had wrapped my shoes with burlap. We marched twenty-five or thirty kilometers that day, and when we arrived in the village were counted and given two slices of bread. Then we were put into a barn, under guard, and slept for the night. In the morning, we were again counted and the march began again for twenty-five or thirty kilometers until we reached the next appointed village. The villagers that we passed yelled at us and threw things at us, they even spat at us. Again, we were given ersatz bread and billeted in a hayloft. We would 7
antagonize the German guards by sporadically yelling, F--- Y--. This drove them crazy, and they'd threaten us. After many days on the march, I became very ill (I had been coughing my guts out for weeks). I fell to the side of the road, and passed-out, not caring if they would shoot me. I had seen this done before--they lifted me up on a wagon that had the German’s provisions and ours. When we reached the town, which I later found out was Stettin, a very large and important seaport and industrial city, the Germans called for some Belgian prisoners (who were being used as slave labor in the town of Stettin). They placed me on a small sled and took me to their place, which was a basement of a warehouse. They cleaned me up, washed my clothes and put me to sleep. When I awoke, they fed me and kept me warm. We talked when I felt well enough (I spoke French.). They informed me as to what was going on and fed me nourishing soup (no chicken soup). They got me to a point where I felt much better. Then the Germans came and took me to a POW aid station. There I was treated by a French doctor who was very nice. I was placed on a wooden shelf with a straw mattress. The doctor treated my sinuses and chest--I was told I had pneumonia. After about four or five days, a S.S. officer came in and told the doctor that anyone who did not have a fever had to get out. I was taken out and placed with another column of prisoners. I met an English soldier who was a medic and had been captured at Dunkirk. He was a prisoner for approximately five years. We became good friends, and we escaped together quite a few times. We were always caught and sent to other columns, where we would escape. They finally sent us to a camp in Northern Germany, by a city called Anklam. This city is the closest point to Sweden. I was very friendly with the Belgian prisoners who worked in the city. They told me that there was a German PT boat at the docks, guarded by just one German soldier. I had become especially friendly with two Belgians and one French Priest. Every morning I'd go to their compound, and we would discuss the Old Testament. They knew I was Jewish. I had also befriended four Americans--one a Ranger, one a Sea Bee, and a couple of GI's. My friends, the Belgians who worked in the city, gave us some extra food. They drew a map of the city and the layout of where the PT boat was. They also knew the time of the guard changes. One of the Americans 8
knew how to handle a diesel boat, and the boat was always fully fueled. We had good knives and were planning to hijack the boat to Sweden. We saved enough food for the adventure. However, one morning my friend, the Belgian Priest, came to the American compound, found me and told me that he had seen a list of prisoners that were being moved in a few days--my name was on the list. This messed up our escape plans to Sweden. I was attached to another column of prisoners. We were again on the road (like Willie Nelson sings, "On the road again"). That evening we were billeted in a barn and given our two slices of bread. My bread was all moldy--I might have had about a three-inch circle of bread that was edible. At roll call that evening in the village street, the German Captain who was a regular army graduate from the Academy in Dansig, had a bad arm and one eye was blind from action on the Russian front, asked if anyone had any problems or questions to step up. Not being bashful, I stepped up to the center of the group, gave him a salute and told him that I did not get my full ration because most of my bread was moldy and unfit to eat. I showed the bread to him. He said he was sorry, but he had nothing to replace the bread with, and if I would remind him tomorrow, he would give me an extra ration. Sure enough, the next day he remembered and gave me an extra ration. You must remember, he was an equivalent to a West Point graduate and not a S.S. or regular "wermacht." That evening, we were billeted in a barn, and seven of us had decided to escape. In the yard behind the barn we dug a slit trench. A brick wall about six feet high enclosed the yard. The night had no moon, and it was pitch black when we'd go out to the slit trench. We would squat and make terrible cramping noises, which distracted the guard. While one was squatting and groaning, the other would go to the rear and hop over the wall. I hopped over the wall and headed out into the field. Suddenly I heard noises, and a flare was up in the sky. I dropped flat. Just twenty feet away, a German soldier was having sex with a frauline--they made lots of noise. I cautiously kept moving (I don't know for how long) until I came to a squeaking windmill. I ate some of the grain that I found and went to sleep. When I awoke, it was daylight. I remained in the windmill till dark. Then I started to walk in the ditches along side the road. Whenever I would hear or see a vehicle, I would prostrate myself in the ditch.
When I reached the city, which was Magdeburg, I was soon caught. They took me to the nearest police station, where I was placed in 'solitary'. It was a small cubicle, about four by eight feet, with a hard bench to sleep on, and a can to defecate or urinate in. The cell was pitch black, and all I could hear was the guard outside walking. I was taken upstairs to the police station, where I was interrogated. I told them nothing. The police asked if I would sign a statement, and I said maybe. I was again placed in the dark small cell. After a while, they took me upstairs, where there was an English prisoner as my interpreter. He had written some sort of statement for me to sign. It was in German. Knowing that 'Platt Deutsch' or 'Low German' was very similar to Yiddish, I asked him about some words that had double meanings. He acknowledged this to be true, and I told him to tell the Germans to "go to hell." Again, I was placed back in my cold dark cell, where I decided to sleep. They gave me some soup. Two guards were sent to accompany me to the closest prison camp (Stalag). I was taken to a Belgian prisoner work camp. The officer in charge of the camp was a German, who looked exactly like Erick von Stroheim, the actor. He said he wanted to talk to me in his quarters. When I got to his quarters, he said, "Listen to me, the war is almost over, and if you try to escape again, you would take the chance of getting killed, because the soldiers on the Western Front, along the Elbe River, were old men and kids of the 'Wermacht.' They don't know any better and would shoot just to say they shot an American escapee. So behave, and I will get you a shower and some soup and a place to sleep." I listened to him, and he kept his word. After showering and getting a large mixing bowl of thick barley soup, he placed me in a barrack that had bars on the window. A young wounded soldier, maybe seventeen years old, with a withered arm, was my guard. I told the guard to come into my room rather then stay out in the cold, and he did. I, in the meantime, broke up some wooden beds, which I used as wood to keep warm in the stove. When I felt tired, I broke some more wood, and told him to feed the stove because I was going to sleep. He did what I told him. In the morning, there was another young guard, and I invited him in. Later that morning, two soldiers came to escort me to a Stalag. We went to the train station and boarded a civilian train. The train was full of civilian Germans. I asked the guard, out loud, "How come they have been believing in Hitler, when 10
all the people on the train, some even pregnant women, looked so sick and underfed. Don't they know any better than to be puppets to Hitler?" The guard told me to shut up, because someone would turn him in, and he would be in trouble. So I shut my mouth. When we got to our destination, and got off the train, I saw my English friend that had escaped with me that night. We were taken to a Stalag that was sixty kilometers from the Elbe River. I decided to again play games. I registered as a Polish prisoner to confuse them. I was living with young Poles, who were captured during the Warsaw Rebellion. The head of the Polish compound became a very good friend and hid me during roll call and always got me rations. He is now living in Florida. One day I heard that Typhus was getting rampant in the camp. I was able to go to another compound and was given a Typhus vaccine in the chest, by a Serbian doctor. My English friend, Joe Young, from Manchester, England, would bribe the guards with some cigarettes and phony passes. He'd leave the compound and come back with food that he would either barter for or steal. He even had the guts to visit the soldiers on the Panzer units, who were always drunk and cussing at everybody, including the Jews. He would tell me that it was a good thing that I did not go with him that day. During the day, I would go to the French compound, make friends with them, and have some fun with their sense of humor. One morning, after I had been in this camp two or three weeks, an English Major and his Radioman were parachuted into the camp. They demanded to see the camp Commander, and requested that he give all the prisoners free passage through the German lines, across the Elbe River, to freedom. The camp Commander refused, and the English Major and his Radioman were placed in 'solitary'. A few days later an American Captain and his Radioman were parachuted into the camp. This Captain gave the camp Commander an ultimatum that he grant free passage to all the prisoners to be taken across the Elbe River, which was sixty kilometers away. And if he didn't do what the Captain said, he would be tried as a war criminal. The Captain and his Radioman were not put in 'solitary', but placed with American prisoners in their compound. 11
Saturday morning, May 3, 1945, I was fooling around, having some fun with my French friends, when someone was yelling that the Americans were outside the gate. We couldn't believe it! We ran down to the gate, and sure enough, there were ambulances and trucks. The ambulances took the very sick and those who were severely wounded. The others, such as myself, jumped on trucks, and off we went sixty kilometers across the Elbe River to a very large German air facility, called Hildeshime. The first thing they did was spray us with D.D.T. and delouse us. We were then given clean clothes. We received some light food and were told not to gouge ourselves with too much food or rich food. Then we went to the Red Cross, where we were told that if we gave them our name and address, they would notify our families (Bullshit! --They never did.). We then went over to the German Airforce Officer quarters, and we saw the tiled baths. There was plenty of hot water, and we all soaked in all the tubs in the barracks. That night we had some chow and hit the sack. The next morning for breakfast we lined up on the chow line--the ironic thing was that German prisoners of war were serving us. Some fellows got mad and threw trays at them--this was wrong. Many of the Allied prisoners piled their plates with hot cakes, bacon, etc., and even though they were warned, they got so sick that they could have died. Within a few days, I was taken to camp, Lucky Strike, in Cherbourg. There I went on sick call to see the doctor, because I was getting very severe headaches. He immediately had me sent to a hospital in Rouen, France. I was there for two weeks, given lots of shots and a special diet. When I was captured I was 185 pounds, and when I was liberated I was 92 pounds. From there, they sent me to Paris, to a hospital called La Pitie`. Again, I was on a large regimen of shots and other vitamins. The good thing was that I could go out on pass every day. There were many very funny incidents in Paris, but I won't talk about them (?). After a month, I was placed aboard a ship, 'The George Washington'. We had twenty six hundred casualties aboard, and served three meals a day and all the ice cream we wanted. By that time, I could eat pretty normal.
We arrived in the U.S.A., passed the lady in the bay, and were disembarked at the Halloren General Hospital on Staten Island, New York. I called my sister in Brooklyn and told her that I was getting a one-day pass the next day. She told me to come to her home, and not to go home to my parent's apartment in Brooklyn. I had a feeling that I knew why. I took the subway, and when I arrived at the station where my sister's house was located, I saw my younger sister coming out of another part of the subway train. This was a very joyous moment. We went over to my older sister's place, and after a while my sister said she had something to tell me. I said that I sensed I knew what it was. I said that my Mother had died not knowing for sure that I was alive. My Mother died the first week in April. The evening before she died, she told the family that she knew that I was alive. While my Father and sisters were sitting in mourning, two days after she died, they received the card that I had written in December, shortly after I was captured, saying that I was alive and a prisoner of the Germans. My family notified the U.S. Government that I was alive. Until then, my status was "Missing in Action." The Red Cross had never notified my family that I was alive, after telling us at the Hildershime Airport on May 3, 1945. After three days at Halloren General Hospital on Staten Island, I was sent by hospital train to a Fort Devens Hospital, outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I was treated there for approximately six months. I was then given a thirty-day pass. At the end of thirty days, I was supposed to go to Chattanooga, Tennessee to be reassigned. Instead, I had enough points to be discharged. I was discharged on my own affidavit, because my records were lost. I received my 'Purple Heart' at the Fort Devens Hospital.
Post Script: I left New York for California in November 1946, to go to school at U.S.C. One day during a rain, I was caught in the downpour near downtown Los Angeles, and I ran into a Texaco Gas Station for cover. There I met a fellow who was in the 82nd Airborne Division. He had been wounded and had facial plastic surgery. I asked him if he knew of Master Sergeant Keating, and he said yes and that the Master Sergeant lost his rank and was given fifteen years of hard labor at Fort Leavenworth. Many former prisoners had mentioned him as a collaborator. When we were liberated, they asked us if we knew collaborators--I told them his name.
.......................................................................................... In the future, as I remember more happenings, I will add them as Addendums. ..........................................................................................
It was a very bitter wintry day. It was snowing very hard, and the wind was blowing snow into our faces. I had been coughing for many days. The German soldiers were pushing us to keep moving at a fast pace. Suddenly, I fell to the side of the road and passed out. I was unconscious until, after a while, I felt someone lifting me up and placing me atop of a supply wagon. Usually when a prisoner would pass out, the Germans would shoot and kill them and leave their body on the side of the road. Someone must have been watching over me from above. I found out later that we were on the outskirts of a large city. It was the city of Stettin. I was taken to a Belgium work camp that was in the lower part of a large industrial building. The Belgium prisoners who were on work detail took me in, undressed me, and washed me up. I had messed. They washed my clothing, fed me from their rations, and made me sleep. When I awakened, they fed me some soup, and we started talking. We talked for a long time, and then I went back to sleep. I don't know how long I stayed with the Belgium prisoners. After a few days, a German soldier came with a small snow sled. There was lots of snow outside. They bundled me up, and the German soldier placed me on the sled and dragged me across the city to a French doctor who was a P.O.W. The doctor put me into a warm bunk and then examined me. I had pneumonia, and my sinuses were in bad shape. He gave me some medication and nose drops. The doctor told me to breathe through my ski mask, because the cold air was irritating my throat. While I was being cared for by this French doctor, the German S.S. officer would come by every day. All the sick that had no fever were sent out to another column of prisoners who were passing through. When my fever was gone, I was sent out to join another group. When I arrived and was attached to this group, I met an English soldier who had been captured at Dunkirk five years earlier. We
became very good friends, and from then on, we would escape together. His name was Joe Young. His experience is yet another detailed story. After we were liberated and were in Allied hands, my friend, Joe Young, told me that he was going back to Poland where he had met a Polish girl, who he married and together they had a couple of kids. ..........................................................................................
I was sent to a hospital in Rouen, France. It was a Catholic hospital that the Americans were using for our sick and wounded. I befriended one of the nuns, who would come by my bed and we would talk in French. I had a small pocket English - French Dictionary that I gave to her. All prisoners that were liberated had the privilege of going into the kitchen and eating whatever and whenever we wished. One of the American nurses, who was a Captain, was a very big alcoholic. Whenever she would give me my shots, I thought my muscles were being torn. One evening, about 10:00 P.M., I decided to go into the kitchen to grab a bite. As I opened the kitchen door, this same nurse was on the table and a male officer was on top of her. I closed the door quietly and returned to my bunk. I am recalling this because it was part of my experiences during wartime. ..........................................................................................
After spending a few weeks in the hospital in Rouen, France, I was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Paris. The name of the hospital was La Pitie. While in the hospital, I had the opportunity to get a pass and go into Paris daily. I had no money, but I could get all the cigarettes I wanted. Many days after I had seen much of Paris, I went to see my friend, Andre Macmillan, who was French. He was a prisoner in the same camp. I would bring his mother and sister bars of American soap, blankets, cigarettes, and chocolates. They could use all of these things either for bartering or for their personal use. I wanted to have some fun, so one day I decided to go to a place in Paris called Place Pigalle. I went with a French Canadian soldier who had been a P.O.W. We arrived at Place Pigalle, and decided to go into a bar. Suddenly, two French girls approached us (mind you, I speak High School French and my friend speaks fluent French), and for some reason one of the girls approached me and 15
asked me if I wanted to have some fun. Believe me, I did not have the ability to do anything. I asked her how much she would charge and told her we had no money, but we had cigarettes. She went over to her friend and discussed the situation. She returned, and said they would take two packs a piece. I looked at her and said in French that I did not want to buy it; I just want to borrow it. She left with her friend in a huff. The reason I said what I did was that a pack of cigarettes at that time in Paris was worth twenty dollars (American money) each, and besides I was just toying with them, since I did not have the physical ability to accomplish a damn thing. ..........................................................................................
The last day that I was in prison camp (May 3rd, 1945), I was fooling around with my friends in their quarters in a large warehouse. These were French P.O.W.'s. Some of them had gone into the nearby area to work on a farm and returned with potatoes. They decided to make mashed potatoes, so they made a masher out of a tree branch about three inches in diameter and about a foot long. They proceeded to mash the potatoes, and we all formed a large circle. The French men placed the potato masher that was shaped like a penis, into the middle of the circle. We all had to take turns crawling to the phallic symbol that was covered with mashed potatoes, and lick the potatoes off. It was about that time that someone yelled that the Americans were here. I immediately ran out, and sure enough, the gates were open, and there were American ambulances and trucks. I jumped on a truck and was taken to the American lines. Many other prisoners were evacuated to the American lines. On the third day of the evacuation, the Russians entered the camp. They took all the German guards and officers to the latrine and shot them dead. This was told to me by the last of our prisoners that were liberated. ..........................................................................................
After being marched to Stalag 12A in Limburg, Germany, we entered the prisoner of war camp. I noticed a long flat wagon being pulled by very emaciated prisoners of war. Piled high on the flat wagon were dead skeletonlike prisoners of war. They were being taken somewhere outside of the camp to be buried in a large common grave. The dead had all died from a typhus 16
epidemic and starvation. This incident occurred every day. The dead prisoners were all Russian prisoners of war. Other prisoners of war told me that there were other Nationals that suffered the same fate. The sanitary conditions in all of the prisoner of war camps or stalags, as they are known, had the same unsanitary conditions. Death was a very common occurrence. ..........................................................................................
While being pinned down as we went through the hedge rows my captain (named Captain John Sharp) yelled who has the wire cutters? I answered, “I have the wire cutters.” He yelled back “Lederman, cut the barbed wire.” I crawled up to the barbed wire and cut the barbed wire so that we could proceed up the hill. This memory came back to me in time.
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