3:02 | 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.
Keywords : Norbert Friedman Jew Jewish Polish concentration camp forced labor Sun Rays At Midnight air raid German
Norbert Friedman was born into a traditional Jewish Family in Krakow, Poland. It was a large and loving family which was disrupted when the German Army invaded. When the bombs began to fall, there was a family meeting. What to do with our young men?
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 told if they volunteered for a labor camp, their families would be spared, but this was a lie.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reading from his memoir, Sun Rays At Midnight, Norbert Friedman describes the day of liberation when he saw American tanks rumble into the little German village where they were hiding in a barn. They were Polish Jews who had labored for three years in the vast network of Nazi forced labor camps.
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.
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.
What a change. Norbert Friedman went from slave laborer to translator for the Americans and in his uniform, he could exercise some authority over his former tormentors. He was so enamored of his liberators, he decided he must become an American.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The southern route across the Atlantic required extra fuel tanks on the aircraft. Flight engineer Marvin Russell had to repair one of them after the first leg of the flight. Eventually, they got to England where they went out to a pub and were greeted by a German rocket.
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.)
He bunked with regular B-17 crew members, but Bill Livingstone was a gunnery instructor who was there to keep skills sharp. He was also there to substitute for any crew member who was not able to fly. His very first mission turned out to be a memorable one. Part 1 of 5.
After bailing out over Germany, Marvin Russell couldn't find any of his crew where he landed. He found a Italian work crew and tried to get some civilian clothes from them, but he wound up in the hands of the Germans. He was taken eventually to a military base where he was subjected to a humiliating interview.
Bill Adair may have been the luckiest man in the Bataan Death march. With a commandeered ambulance full of casualties, he threaded his way through the ordeal thanks to luck and guile. At the end, though, there was a camp waiting for him just like all the rest. Part 2 of 2.
Hannah Deutch was a teenager when the Kindertransport rescue effort became her means of escape from Germany. England was taking in thousands of Jewish children and she got her papers in order and left. Right away, as the oldest one in the large group, she became the leader on the journey.
After his interrogation, downed airman Marvin Russell was sent to Stalag 17B in Austria. Living conditions were minimal, with no heat and little food. No breakfast was the standard but on Christmas morning, he got a bowl of oatmeal with a little extra protein.
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.
During one mission, B-17 pilot George Stamps was startled when another formation of bombers passed through his at the same altitude. That was scary but the Germans had something that was also very frightening, the Messerschmitt Me 262, the first jet fighter.
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.
Rufus Dalton was at the Maginot Line bouncing mortar shells off an old citadel. His unit was suddenly pulled and sent to take Patton's place in the line after the general was summoned to the Bulge. Once they got there, a fierce ten day battle ensued due to the last major German offensive, Operation Nordwind. Part 1 of 2.
Near the end of the war, the food supply in Holland had been disrupted and there was widespread hunger. Henk Duinhoven was lucky to be in the countryside, where gardens had been harvested. When he heard the sound of Canadian tanks, he knew that liberation was finally at hand.
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 men of the 92nd Infantry Division had to fight on three fronts. They had to fight the Germans. They had to fight the racial animosity of their fellow soldiers and commanders. And they had to fight Congress, which wanted to maintain segregation in the Army. Lyle Gittens made it through all that with an undampened spirit.
On his first raid in North Africa, reconnaissance platoon leader John Souther captured a hundred Germans with no losses to his own unit. His job in the 1st Armored Division was to be out in front with his eyes open, and he was doing just that when a huge amount of enemy was spotted. Rommel's big push had begun.
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.
Wes Ruth was eating breakfast when he saw the planes coming in. He thought they were ours until the bombs started falling. As he drove frantically to his hangar on Ford Island, he saw the USS Arizona hit. The Japanese had made their move. As a photo-recon pilot, he was dispatched as soon as the attacks ended to search for the enemy fleet.
John Souther was on reconnaissance patrol when he nosed his halftrack up over the edge of the gully in the Tunisian desert. A round from a German 88 immediately tore through the engine compartment, but left him unhurt. They paid mightily for that shot. With his radio, he began spotting artillery on their position, under fire the entire time. He was awarded the Silver Star for this action.
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.
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 Adair was suffering from the effects of a concussion when the battle for the Philippines came to an end for him. Along with thousands of others, he was forced to surrender and was facing the prospect of joining what would become known as the Bataan Death March. Then fate intervened in the form of an ambulance without a driver. Part 1 of 2.
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.
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.
It was a fierce week long battle for the city of Heilbronn. Even though they were only delaying the inevitable, the Germans weren't beat, yet. Forward Observer Rufus Dalton went into the demolished city looking for a rifle company he was instructed to find. It was an eerie setting with the city in flames all around him. Part 2 of 2.
As if a year in a German prison camp wasn't enough misery, when Marvin Russell was settling into life back home after the war, he suffered a serious injury which nearly took his life. Two things saved him, a new drug and an innovative doctor.
The Germans had been chased back into their homeland. B-17 pilot George Stamps was taking his ground crew for a ride over the Ruhr Valley to see the damage their efforts had inflicted on the enemy. Suddenly, there was a call on the radio. It was over. The Germans had surrendered. Forget the Ruhr, we're going to Paris!
It was the day to practice bomb but there were no practice bombs available. The crews were allowed to take a pleasure flight anywhere they wanted. Marvin Russell's crew headed up to Atlanta, but they never got there after a close encounter with a tree.