8:25 | As a non-commissioned officer, POW Hank Freedman was not required to work. The privates and PFC's were not so lucky. Many died laboring for the Germans. He never received the Red Cross packages he was due, though they did visit the camp. Those were good days. Extra rations.
Keywords : Hank Freedman Prisoner Of War (POW) non-commisioned officer (NCO) Stalag 9A Ziegenhain Germany Berga prison camp forced labor Geneva Convention Red Cross Red Cross Package cold German Morocco French barter Russian
He was an enthusiastic draftee in 1942. Hank Freedman excelled at the tests he was given and was sent to engineering school under the ASTP program. Before he could graduate, the program was scrapped because they needed the manpower in the infantry. His unit had left, so he was sent to the 106th Infantry Division, a fateful assignment.
The 106th Infantry Division was newly formed and inexperienced when they replaced another division on the front in the Ardennes Forest. No one thought there was any danger of an attack at that location, but Hank Freedman found out just how wrong that was. His unit faced the full fury of the German offensive at the Battle of the Bulge and found themselves surrounded.
The 106th Division was decimated. The German attack through the Ardennes broke and scattered the American line and thousands of GI's were captured. Among them was Hank Freedman. He describes the fierce battle and the confusion and chaos as the Germans surrounded and captured him.
The day after he was captured, the Germans put Hank Freedman and the others on the road. They were eventually put in rail cars that were filthy and began a trek to prison camps, always a target for Allied planes seeking out German trains. He survived the friendly fire, though all were not so fortunate.
The prison camp at Bad Orb was at the top of a small mountain, overlooking the town. When POW Hank Freedman arrived, the guards said for all the Jewish prisoners to step forward. What followed was a moment worthy of Spartacus. Then they wanted the POW's to fill out extensive forms with all kinds of information. No way.
For some reason, the German guard in the the prison camp tower started shooting at an American fighter crossing overhead. Hank Johnson was a prisoner at that camp and when he saw the pilot bank and turn, he headed for the barracks. No way that guard was going to get away with that. It was a nice diversion for a lot of men with no hope of escape.
The POW's saw the town below the camp getting shelled, so they started thinking about liberation. The Germans started to move them out on the road, but a planned subterfuge thwarted them and the GI's were still there when an American tank crashed through the gate. Hank Johnson describes that joyous day, marred only by overindulgence in C-rations.
Hank Freedman chose a hospital stay over an immediate return after he was liberated from a German prison camp. He was malnourished and weak and it took him a month to regain his strength. When he stepped off the plane and called home, there was much happiness and a little fainting.
When he got into combat, Hank Freedman thought about being killed or wounded, never about being taken prisoner. When that happened to him, he had to adjust. It was a long, tough struggle with weather, hunger and boredom, but he made it through. His struggle wasn't over, though. He had to contend with the US government to get his health care.
Did he take it personally since he was Jewish? No, says Hank Freedman, he was just there to serve his country. The former POW reflects on his upbringing and the legacy of World War II veterans.
Alex Nuckles reflects on being in a black support unit in the Pacific. He didn't understand why there had to be segregation. We were all fighting for the same thing, weren't we? Still, most of the soldiers respected those who were different and got along.
The Augsburg concentration camp was different. For the first time at any camp, there were Russians. It was there that Jewish prisoner Norbert Friedman witnessed the first act of rebellion he had seen when three condemned Russians stunned their executioners with their bravery.
B-24 flight engineer Bill Toombs was over Germany when bad went to worse. One engine was shot out. Then an 88 round went right through the number four wing tank. It didn't blow up the plane, but they lost all the fuel for that engine, so now they had two engines out. They made a desperate run for Brussels, which had been liberated.
When he got to Hawaii, Alex Nuckles had to go through all his basic training again. At least the weather was nice. His eventual destination was Saipan, where there was no more training. There was Japanese artillery hidden in a cave and strafing, but his quartermaster unit avoided any casualties.
When he got to the labor camp, Norbert Friedman found a little community inside, with people from all over. His father and two uncles were with him, not yet aware that all their relatives had already been subjected to the Final Solution. After some bad work assignments, he was fortunate to get a skilled job in a testing lab.
Robert James was in the shower aboard ship when the alarm went off. He scrambled to his gun mount to man the 20 mm gun and then the threat became apparent. Kamikazes had broken through the air cover and were headed for the convoy. He heard some firing from another gun and turned around just in time to see a horrifying sight. Part 1 of 2.
The survivors of Nazi concentration camps are a tight knit group. Norbert Friedman describes the close bond with those he knew in the camps. He writes of this in his memoir, Sun Rays At Midnight. It is based on his vivid memories, including a macabre dance around a burning German fighter plane.
When he had to bail out, Jim Wicker was literally sucked from the cockpit when he released the canopy because of his high rate of speed. He was just a hundred miles inland a few days after D-Day and the Germans caught him almost immediately. As he sat in solitary confinement waiting for interrogation, he was comforted by his faith.
Bill Garrison was standing in a chow line when a man up the line suddenly dropped, shot dead by a sniper. That was only one hazard at the air fields in China; the others being Japanese air raids and infiltrators. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
After two years in a forced labor camp in his native Poland, Norbert Friedman was sent to a series of different camps, most in Germany. On the transport to the second one, the Jewish prisoners were crammed into cattle cars and given no food or water on the four day journey. At the camp, they were forced to strip and went into showers.
Robert James was propped up against a bulkhead, going in and out of consciousness. The kamikaze had destroyed the starboard gun mounts and there were many dead and wounded. He was grateful when someone gave him some morphine to ease the pain from multiple shrapnel wounds. This was the beginning of a painful journey to healing. Part 2 of 2.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
Because of fierce Allied bombing, an Autobahn tunnel had been converted to an aircraft factory where fuselages for the Me-262 were made. Norbert Friedman was a Jewish prisoner who was forced to labor at the plant. It was there that he received a savage beating for not responding to an air raid.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
Norbert Friedman was watching a group of arriving prisoners at the Leonburg concentration camp when he spotted an old friend from Krakow. They stuck together from there through to the last camp, when they were suddenly put on the road in a death march. His friend, Oscar, was sick and wasn't going to make it. They came up with a desperate plan to save him.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
Just before he was liberated, Norbert Friedman witnessed a last evil act by one of his German captors. Once it was all over, many newly freed prisoners suffered by overeating the food given them by GI's, but he avoided that fate. As he and his father contemplated their next move, a group of Americans pulled off the road to eat. When he approached, he saw that they were black and he did not know what to think.
When he returned from the Pacific, Alex Nuckles was unfairly fired from his first job, but he got a little satisfaction, later, when he saw the man responsible on the street. Using lessons taught to him by his father, he made his mark in his community after the war.
Dachau was just one of many forced labor camps for Norbert Friedman. One of the first built, it was run internally by German political prisoners. At the next camp, it was Gypsies. Along with his father and two uncles, he was fortunate to be classified as skilled labor, which was in high demand at German aircraft plants.
There were some women prisoners on Saipan, recalls Alex Nuckles, but you better not go messing with them. Some guys did, anyway. They also made up bad hooch with bad results. He was the cook and he tried to make the powdered eggs taste like something, but that was a tall order.
Holocaust survivor Norbert Friedman speaks about the unbelievable tragedy of knowing that almost all of your family was sent to gas chambers. It left a huge void in his existence. He was living in New York when 9/11 struck and it triggered old nightmares.
Norbert Friedman was aware of what was happening to Jews in Germany. As conditions worsened in the Krakow ghetto, he and his family decided to flee to smaller and smaller towns. Eventually, even the tiny village where they were hiding was encircled by German troops and all the Jews rounded up. The men were given a choice. If you volunteer for a labor camp, your families will be spared.
Reading from his memoir, Sun Rays At Midnight, Norbert Friedman tells the story of an unsung hero of the Holocaust. On a four day journey, packed into cattle cars with no food and water, this man somehow found a way to exemplify all that is noble and decent about the human race.
During his time in Nazi forced labor camps, Norbert Friedman came to the conclusion that there is no limit to evil inclinations in men. He gives an example of this and then relates the story of Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a dissident German Lutheran theologian, who was in the concentration camp with him.
In a passage from his memoir, Sun Rays At Midnight, Norbert Friedman describes the joy he felt when he found his friend Oscar, whom he had last seen playing dead in a ditch on an SS death march. He joined Oscar working for an American unit as an interpreter and he began to admire and become attracted to the American way of life.
Most accounts of the Holocaust deal with the atrocities, but to survivor Norbert Friedman, there are two little known aspects of it that people should know about. One is the rare courage that enabled some individuals to overcome the overwhelming despair and the other is the role of women during the entire conflict.