5:13 | The POW camp where Fred Scheer ended up was near the Czech border. He was part of a group sent to work on the railroad and the camp was attached to a large rail yard.
Keywords : Fred Scheer Prisoner Of War (POW) Adorf Germany prison camp Czechoslovakia railroad
Fred Scheer was a go-getter in high school, running his own dairy operation. He volunteered for the Army in 1943 and, after infantry training, made the Atlantic crossing. The forces were amassing for the upcoming invasion.
When Fred Scheer arrived in England, his infantry unit was sent to Northern Ireland for nine months. There was training, but there was also food from local farmers and one particular pretty girl.
The fighting had moved inland to Saint-Lo when Fred Scheer went down the cargo net to a landing craft. While waiting to go to the front, some of the men amused themselves by looking for French brandy. Finally, the day came and the unit was put on the line.
His unit had just got to the front when Fred Scheer's squad was sent back on ammo detail. When they returned, everyone was gone, and as they searched through the hedgerows, they began to take German mortar fire. Then they heard, "Hands up, my boys!"
Fred Scheer had a big problem. He was captured by the Germans as soon as he arrived at the front and he was Jewish. He was determined to conceal this as he was moved deeper behind their lines. Both he and his captors were very young, and some of them were almost friendly. At Reims, he was put on a train headed to Germany.
The prisoners were loaded into boxcars and sent from Reims into Germany. Fred Scheer recalls the two transit camps through which he passed, each divided with a Russian side to the camp. The Russians were treated very badly and Scheer knew that if they discovered he was Jewish, an even worse fate awaited him.
The guards at the POW camp were mostly old men, too old for the front. Fred Scheer details the daily life and struggles at the small camp where he was interred. Food was a big concern. Red Cross parcels were a Godsend, but you could also utilize some outside sources, if you were willing to take the risk.
There were two things uppermost in the mind of any POW, the supply of food and the freezing cold of winter. Fred Scheer remembers how the food supplied at the camp dwindled away to almost nothing as the war wore on.
Fred Scheer, who was a POW in Germany, collected and published the stories of other POW's and this is one from Lester Schrenk, who was held in a Luftwaffe camp. One day, the men were given two Red Cross parcels each. This was unheard of, but there was a catch.
Fred Scheer describes the men in his work gang, who walked every day from the prison camp to the rail yard where they repaired the tracks. Most distinctive were the three paratroopers, who were kind of aloof. The POW's were paid for their work, though there was little they could buy.
From Fred Scheer's collection of POW stories, this one from Bill Watson describes how some bridge players used their card game to play a trick on the German guards.
POW Fred Scheer was frequently around German civilians while working on rail lines. They could be nice people, as he describes in the stories of the lady who gave him soup and the disabled veteran who wanted his watch.
It was on a Sunday morning that Fred Scheer heard the sound of American planes overhead. They smashed the rail yard where the Allied POW's had been working and set off a chain of events that would allow Scheer to attempt an escape. Part 1 of 3.
The four Allied POW's had attempted to escape, but were captured by Germans. Back at the prison camp infirmary, Fred Scheer and two others were determined to try again. They made it further the second time, but again they were captured. This time, the impending end of the war led to such slack security that it was possible for them to slip away and continue towards the west. Part 2 of 3.
The escaping POW's were walking westward toward the Allied lines when they began to notice white flags on the houses. It was over. Picked up by advancing GI's, Fred Scheer made his way to Reims and then Camp Lucky Strike. Soon, he was on a ship home. Part 3 of 3.
Shortly after he was captured by the Germans, Fred Scheer filled out a card to mail home. He describes the reaction in his home town when that card got there.
Former POW Fred Scheer has written two books, one about his own experiences and another which collects the stories of other POW's.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.