May 1945

May 4

We board trucks at Selb and go 60 miles east to the city of Ager. This city also was a major target of bombing raids, since there is considerable damage in the railroad yards. We wait in the rain for several hours, then go over to a schoolhouse in the center of the city. The interior of the building is a mess. Clothing, boxes and junk of all sorts are spread all over. In two huge rooms we find stacks of clothing, blouses, pants, shoes and uniforms of every description and size. In another room, stacked three and four feet deep, are hundreds of thousands of swords and knives. I pick out a French bayonet.

We sleep on straw ticking and the place smells. The whole battalion is in the building and among other things I have to complain about is that there is no place to relieve myself in the entire building. The toilets are all plugged and the stools all filled to overflowing. I am forced to go outside and I thank God we only have to stay here one night.

We move from Ager to a number of villages in Sudetenland. It is raining and although there is firing on both our left and our right, we see nothing and carry on until we dig in for the night in a small village. I will never forget Ciplone, a platoon sergeant, going by us with three prisoner. He has forced them to carry his loot. That night and the next day, we spend a considerable amount of time chatting with the Czech women. We are now in friendly, or at least, partially friendly territory and it isn’t hard to strike up a conversation. There is in particular, one straw-blonde girl who is extremely beautiful and with whom it is very easy to converse. Our German is getting better and we can carry on rudimentary conversations. I must say that I am better in German than in French.

May 7

We board trucks and halftracks about 1000 hours and head into Falkenhuer, a city devoid of Germans. We walk down the middle of the streets while the rain falls. We sit down on the curb to await new orders and as we sit there in our ponchos, someone comes along and says the war is over. Most of us don’t believe it, but I do. It seems to me that all the possibilities for further resistance on the part of the Germans have been eliminated. There is no place to hide and I doubt there can be much will to resist. All the Germans have to offer now is their deaths and I doubt those deaths could buy the nation much time.

I have neglected to note that all along our advance of late, we have been supplied with the Stars and Stripes, the armed forces paper, which have allowed us to keep up with the movements of the British in the north and the Russians to the east, as well as our own American forces. We are now on the southern mountainous ridges near the Elbe River and as we wait, we hear all sorts of news. It is said that Hitler is dead in Berlin, that Mussolini has been captured in Milan, tried and executed. Many of the other Nazi leaders have been captured, but others, it seems, have run off to their secret hiding places. We sit in the rain, with our sodden feet in the gutters and our ponchos over our heads, pondering the news. No one shouts and no one shoots into the air and goes searching for a drink. In fact, there is no reaction at all. After awhile, the lieutenant comes down the street and tells us we are moving out. We climb aboard our halftrack and move out to the south and west of the city, taking over some quarters occupied by French prisoners of war, about 50 or 60 in number.

May 8

We are standing down at a roadblock by a railroad overhead when they start to come, great swirling clouds of dust moving with them. There is every type of vehicle made by man, it seems, plus horses. They come in huge trucks and trailers, on bicycles, in halftracks, and in armored vehicles pulling as many as three broken down trucks. They ride inside and outside, on the tops, on the fenders, clinging like flies. They go by at varying speeds, some with engines roaring, some putt-putting along, barely moving. There are officers and men, dirty men, wounded men, handsome men, brutal-looking characters and others. Hour after hour they go by.

They are the Germans, the defeated enemy.

They are beaten and disillusioned, these men, and not only men. There also are women, wives of soldiers and officers. Some are pretty, some homely, some are nurses with their white dresses soiled. They, too, go by hour after hour. Some civilians line the road, waving and crying. These are the Sudeten Germans, most of them sympathetic to German interests, unlike the Czechoslovakians.

The German soldiers and their followers are glad to leave Czechoslovakia: they are only 25 miles from the Russians and they flee from their mercies hastily and happily. Along with them go the French and British POWs.

All is confusion. The road is packed. This is the German 6th Army, the soldiers who slugged their way across Russia, perhaps the most powerful unit in the German Wehrmacht at one time, soldiers who carried their flag to the very brink of victory before they were thrown back. Now this army is smashed and beaten, reduced to a pitiful fragment of its former self, its survivors now desiring only one thing – to escape from the unrushing Soviets. They fear the justice of the Red Army and desperately try to escape to parts of Germany where they hope the Russians cannot reach them. By coming through our lines, they believe they will be safe and will be able to return to their homes.

We stand by acting like traffic cops, keeping the hordes of refugee soldiers and others moving. The French, who are now in quite a great number, stand and hoot and holler at the Germans, no doubt using nasty and dirty words. We also hear about the great hilarity back in the States, the shouting and celebration in New York and Washington and across the nation in honor of our great victory. But among the line soldiers, there is no celebration as yet. I do not see one man shout or fire his gun. That’s because in many ways, this situation is worse than war. All Europe has seemingly sprung up and hit the road. Masses of humanity stream down the highways, not only the enemy described previously, but the millions of persons displaced from their homes by the cruelty of war. Every road in Germany has on it, it seems certain, representatives of every nationality and race represented in the fighting. You see French, Russians, American, Italians, Moroccans, Negroes, Chinese and Indians. You see them all, singly or in groups, some still in their native dress. They stream by constantly, and it is our job to keep the stream moving. Every single one of them seems to have larcenous instincts and every one of them is imbued with one basic, overriding philosophy – that of the survival of the fittest, of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and dog eat dog. Some have retained an element of culture, but others are like mad dogs.

It appears that the entire transportation services of the U.S. Army are now being mobilized to keep these people moving.

Now, if I can, I would like to give you a kaleidoscopic view of the situation in Europe as one soldier sees it. Under German domination, with the exception of the concentration camps and like, Europe experienced generally stable economic conditions and the people had enough to eat.

Poland was an exception, but in France, Belgium and Italy, the situation was basically stable. Disintegration began, however, with the invasion and the swift allied occupation. France and Belgium survived, but Holland was not so fortunate. The Germans forsook all responsibility, robbed the Dutch and left them starving. At present, our 1st Infantry Division is on scant rations. For men with the caloric needs of the typical infantry soldier, this is the next thing to starvation. The reason is that four or five million prisoners of war are streaming back and must be fed. As a result, the distribution of foodstuffs has to be spread over a much wider number of people. Thus far, I think we are doing a good job.

As regards the German treatment of prisoners of war and others in the concentration camps, everyone has had his eyes opened. The brutality and sadism of the Nazis have not been exaggerated. For example, in one Russian camp we came upon the prisoners had been on starvation rations for years and beatings were common. In this little village just a few flocks away from our barracks, we found starved Russian POWs stacked against a wall. We made the Germans bury them. The survivors had gaunt, drawn faces, their eyes unnaturally large veins standing out on their heads and their complexions ashen gray. So many people in Germany seem like good religious folk. How, then, can these brutalities be so extensive? I asked one German about the German concentration camp and he said he had never heard of it. I asked him why and he answered, “Oh, yes, but that is not unusual. There are so many such incidents that one forgets them.”[1]

While we are standing guard, another young German comes riding along on his bicycle and engages me in a conversation. I point over to the camp where the Russians were kept and ask him what he thinks about it, and he answers: “What can we do?”

The Germans did not question their leaders and no German I have talked to as yet has unequivocally condemned Hitler. They will assail his incompetence in running the war, or say it was foolish of him to think Germany could win the war, but no one condemns the German government in so many words. It appears to me the Germans are still living under the spell of the Nazis, glancing around corners and hesitating to comment for fear the Gestapo is listening. One of the conclusive proofs that the majority of the German population firmly backed the Nazis is to be found in the fact that resistance to Hitler and his gang by the clergy was negligible. I ask myself why the church leaders did not protest this usurpation of power by a monstrous and evil clique of men. Certainly, they must have perceived and misery being laid upon the world by the Hitlerites; but still they did not raise their voices in protest. Indeed, many clergymen were open supporters of the Nazi movement. Inasmuch as Germany is only one-third Catholic and two-thirds Protestant, and since the Protestant segment of Germany was not given to resistance against Hitler, any such rebellion by the Catholic segment would have been futile; and why didn’t the pope raise his voice against the Nazis? It reminds me of Henry IV and Pope Gregory. Gregory brought Henry IV to his knees, but the difference was that Henry was Catholic and his country was totally Catholic, not only a third Catholic, as Germany is today. The German people of that era totally respected the pope and he was able to bring Henry out of German in rags across the Alps, barefooted through the snow. No one believes the current pope could have done thus with Hitler. One sharp reprimand would have brought down a persecution similar to that inflicted upon the Jews. In that regard, it is now reported that there are no Jews left in Europe and there had been some five or six million before the war. The Germans killed not only German Jews, but any Jew, wherever they found them.

Why was moral and political resistance to the Nazis so minimal? Simple. It was totally subjugated by the popular will. It was lost in the mob. So while the church leaders could certainly see the evil incarnate in Hitler and his henchmen, they could not raise their voices. Such a fight would have resulted in the shedding of the blood of priests and millions of the faithful. Instead, the bishops submitted to the will of the people. Still the question burns in your mind, as it must in the collective German conscience: “Can you bear to live with an evil such as this, even though to resist it means your own life?”

The Turtle Lake Times has been coming airmail and I get them in good time. There is one article that stirs me to thought. It quotes the archbishop of Canterbury to the effect that he believes something should be done to prevent the race from becoming composed of idiots and scrubs. He says that while normal people discontinue reproducing, the idiots and scrubs go on and on. He says the idiots and scrubs should be exterminated in their early years and if this is not done, the nations of the occidental world will be all scrubs and idiots. This is a remarkable observation. For it to be made at this particular juncture in history is particularly ironic. It would be a desirable thing to perfect the human race and eliminate the deficient, the infirm and the warped. In Germany, one sees right off the results of this belief when it is acted upon. The Germans, the Nazis in particular, are people of action. Here we see some real movement on the question. There is a certain German doctor who was quoted in a recent issue of Time, who says precisely what the archbishop does, with one difference: He practices what the archbishop preaches. He and his fellow Nazi doctors helped effect the “betterment” of the German race by carrying out a massive program of extermination in which several hundred thousand idiots, scrubs, schizophrenics and others were wiped out after a brief diagnosis that resulted in their being stamped “unfit.”

This is the most “heroic” example of mass “mercy killing” ever staged in history. The doctor is proud of his work and of his scientific accomplishment. The archbishop’s sudden discovery of a means to improve the human race is mere wishful thinking compared to the Germans’ action. That’s what I like about the Germans[2]: They are full of action. They don’t hem and haw about principles, then go right about it. If they think the race is being diluted and degraded by increasing numbers of unfit types, they exterminate them. This was not a theory in Germany, it was reality. The German insane asylums and old folks homes[3] are empty. It strikes you that it is unusual that you do not see any old people, or any decrepit, or retarded people.

The archbishop raises an embarrassing and difficult question because if the race is to be perfect by a system of euthanasia couple with sterilization, who will have the power to pick and choose the so-called idiots and scrubs: Who will choose who is to live and who is to die? I for one would not want this power in the hands of the political leaders. When you reach into the very question of life or death, political organizations are simply not sufficiently unbiased to deal with such matters; but none of these problems meant anything to the Nazis. They could proceed with the extermination of a race or a class of people judged unfit with casual ease, as if they were perfecting a new breed of cows or chickens. When the Germans assumed the title of “master race,” this gave them, in their minds at least, the power to destroy the ‘syphilitic French”, the “dull and barbaric Slaves,” and “the perverse and mediocre Italians.” What is particularly distressing about this whole episode, with these declarations by people in high moral places affirming that a doctrine appears “nice” on its face when it is really the rankest and deepest kind of evil, is that we have just finished a war of incalculable misery fought to bring an end to a clique of madmen who sought to put such a doctrine into action.

What is the difference between the Nazis and archbishop? The one practices while the other preaches. The archbishop’s motives are the betterment and welfare of the human race; but I think at the root, the Nazis motives are the same. They, too, wanted to improve the intellectual and moral standards of the nation, and they in fact eliminated many of the suffering “unfit” persons the archbishop talked about.

Let me conclude: On the one hand, we have fought a terrible war against a political system that had as its central theme the methodical extermination of all persons and groups who were presumed to be in opposition to the building of a better race. This scheme was nearly successful; but it did not succeed, though it was defeated only at the cost of much blood, sweat and tears.

On the other hand, at the very moment of our triumph, we are confronted with an archbishop, a man of great moral standing, who says we should eliminate the “scrubs and idiots” for the betterment of the race.

In this same vein, it is understandable that there should be a certain vindictiveness on the part of the victors, including meting out punishment that is equivalent to that which the defeated Nazis sought to impose on their victims. The secretary of the treasury, Morgenthau, has proposed the complete destruction of the industrial and economic capacity of Germany and its return to a completely pastoral state. Churchill is resisting this proposal, but it is said that Roosevelt was impressed with the plan, which was seriously taken up by the heads of government in both Britain and the United States. I have heard a still more radical plan composed by a Jew in New York City who proposes that the entire male population of Germany be sterilized without exception, and that the object of this mass sterilization would be to force all subsequent German births to be a matter of mixture with other nations so that the German race, as such, would disappear from the face of the earth. I have been told that this plan has been set forth in book form and is available for sale in the bookshops of the United States. There is no doubt that had the Germans succeeded in conquering the world, they would have been capable of such an action. Imagine the calamity of the sterilization of the French race; without the French, the human race would lose the art of sex.[4] I would say that there is more potential for tragedy in the loss of French lovers than in the proposal of mixing the German race with the Italians or Jews.[5]

Now let us go on to lighter things. I have 92 points and I understand we only have to have 82 points, in order to be entitled to be rotated back to the United States. If they mean what say, this means that I will be one of the first to be shipped back.

Some words about the Russians: There is not doubt that the Russians won their victory over the Germans by the application of mass, for in every category, including training and the material of war, they were inferior to the Germans. In reviewing the situation, it is my belief that the Americans could have crossed Germany in a quarter of the time they actually took. But our tactics were not based on slaughtering the enemy, for when you re slaughtering off the enemy or separate him from his supplies in order to make it impossible for him to fight. Whenever the enemy would make a real stand, we would maneuver around him, while the Russians would battle it out head-to-head. As a result, I have a lot of confidence in American generalship. If we ever fight the Russians, the destruction would be terrific. Our weapons are vastly superior. The firepower of a 10-man American infantry squad beats theirs twice over. Only the Germans, with their super automatic weapons, could compare with us.

Back at the barracks, I strike up a number of fine acquaintanceships, including a Frenchman named Robert. He says he has attended the University of Toulouse and has a doctor of law degree. I don’t know whether he has such a lofty degree or not, but he converses in English, appears well read and is expressive of many ideas. Robert had been in the French army and had been captured along with many other Frenchmen in the early days of the war and had been in Germany for two years. He says those two years taught him many things. I ask him the question: “The people of Germany are good, moral, religious people. How is it then that brutality and cruelty should be so extensive and on such a massive scale?” He replies: “Many are afraid or complacent. Moreover, they have had obedience and blind faith beaten into them so thoroughly that they do not question the acts of their leaders, no matter how cruel they are, and they will commit murder or acts of brutality on order, fully conscious of the fact that they are murderers and will do this rather than disobey. They have no reason; they act on nothing but blind faith and duty.”

America’s crime rate is much higher than Germany’s. The Gestapo’s method of beating information out of the enemy copies our own third degree. But the brutality that they extend is open and the sadism that appears before your eyes is something that one cannot conceive of being possible in an American community. No one was responsible for the care of the Russians in the camp near us. No one cared. The Germans were taught that they must hate. They must kill. Slaughter delights them. Robert concludes that all the horrors in Germany have not yet been disclosed and that the real scope of the brutalities of the German nation is unimaginable.

This view of the Germans stands in comparison to a story Dulanski tells of an incident in Elbingerode. Five German prisoners came in to surrender, three of them carrying a wounded man. As they approached a roadblock, Dulanski saw an antitank gunner signal the Germans to come in. The AT man went up to meet them, then looted the prisoners. Dulanski then saw the antitank man raise his gun and fire at the Germans, not excepting[6] the wounded man. Later, the other fellows went up to view the bodies. Each of the Germans had a hole in his head where the AT man had finished them off with a Luger pistol. The incident stands as evidence that Americans can be brutal, too.

As we see the people of Europe go by, it prompts me to comment on the various peoples of Europe. In my estimation, the handsome people of Europe are the Belgians. They have no special hate, except for each other. In particular, the Flemish hate the Walloons, a hatred that involves the difference in languages. The Walloons speak French and the Flemish a form of German. When I was in Belgium at the replacement depot, the Belgian boys spoke French, but later, after I joined the 1st Infantry Division in Flanders, the young Belgian boys there spoke Flemish. But in general, the Belgians are nice people.

The English don’t seem to like anybody. They are somewhat like Americans in this regard, at least, eastern Americans, although they tend to be smaller. The English are intolerant of everyone, especially the French and Italians. No doubt, they have no great love for us, either.

The Poles have huge jaws, flat noses and square heads. They are one of the forgotten peoples of Europe, bewildered and alone, not knowing who are their friends, but possessed of a deep and abiding fear and hatred of the Russians and Germans. The Poles have an affinity toward the French and there is a real affection between the Poles and the French. The Italians are the rejected of all. They have neither friend nor enemy. This is a relatively new thing, stemming partially from the fact that the Italians put on such a miserable exhibition in the war and failed so miserably as a fighting force.

The Czechs hate the Germans and are afraid of the Russians. Curiously enough, for all of their brutality, the Germans are probably the most respected of all. There is no question but that the English have more respect for the Germans than for the French and it is becoming very apparent from my own friends and buddies that they share the same perception.

I always speak of these hates, because in a war, little else survives. We can talk peace and international government, but the true understanding among nations that would provide a genuine basis for peace is completely lacking, in my opinion.

The English are the worst offenders in this regard. They are insolent and seem to hate everyone. They fear the Russians and speak often of their fear. They are nice as pie to us, but I wonder if they really like us.

Everyone talks abut the Americans, but my French friend Robert warns, “I am ashamed of my countrymen. You don’t know, Richard, what they are saying about the Americans.” Perhaps it is better if we don’t know and just as well if we don’t let them know what we think of them. The Americans, in general, have not enhanced their love of the Europeans by coming over here. Wherever you go, you hear Americans say, “Those damned Frogs,” or “Those damned Limies.” The only thing we seem to agree upon is that everyone hates the Germans and fears the Russians.

On about our fourth night here, we were in the barracks of the French prisoners for a party, a party to which the French had invited their Germans girlfriends. This promised to be interesting, since we had been under strict non-fraternization orders with regard to the Germans. On the evening of May 5, we had the big party. The French had a little orchestra and their girlfriends came. They danced and they had some potato whiskey and a number of them got drunk. We stayed aloof through the whole thing, watching from the back of the room. It was not particularly appealing because the German women evidently didn’t come from the finer families and there wasn’t a good-looking one in the lot. Nevertheless, the Frenchies and their German frauleins whooped it up. I also have neglected to say that on May 5 or 6, back in Selb, three or four of us were assigned to guard a barracks next to the factories. I never found out what was manufactured in the factories, but the attached barracks had three or four hundred women within, a mixture of nationalities but mostly Polish. The barracks had two floors and on the second floor, the women had their bunks, while on the first floor there were the Frenchmen. I believe it was Fowler and Peter Hans who had been down there and stood the initial guard. They came back all excited. Peter said it was the damndest thing he’d ever seen. It’s a whorehouse, he said. Upstairs are all the women and downstairs are all the Frenchmen, and they do nothing all day except make love. Evidently, when the Americans occupied the place, notice was taken immediately that here were people who could be victims or who could victimize. People who could be importuned or who could importune. Our guard had as its purpose the keeping away of American soldiers. I think it was Hanson and I who went down for the next shift. Our instructions were to stay in the lobby entrance to the building and to make sure that no Americans came in. Periodically we were to go through the building to make sure no dog faces were sneaking in through the windows.

These women had been brought into Germany to work in the fields and factories for meager pay. There were few amenities. The people ranged in age from 15 to 50, and as I have said, the women slept in a huge open room on the top floor and Frenchmen were on the bottom floor. There were about 200 women and 100 Frenchmen. In any event, there were more women than men, with the predictable results. The appointments of these rooms were at best rustic, with crude wooden bunks about four tiers high with nothing but straw for comfort. Rags and old blankets comprised the bedding. Curiously enough, the place was relatively clean and it showed that the morale of these people had been maintained during these long years. Needless to say, it was a natural setting for debauchery. In polite language, it was a love nest; in plain Army language, it was a whorehouse. The command was aware of the chaos that would result if the American troops were allowed to make a run on the place, thus the 24-hour guard was mounted just to keep the doggies out. This gave us the opportunity to have the run of the place. The girls were friendly, but certainly not naïve, and, to a large extent good, wholesome women. And when I say that it was a love nest, it would not be fair to these women to say that they were all cheap and easily bought. I talked with a number of the younger girls and here was some of the most reprehensible behavior of the Germans at work. These girls had been here from four to five years. They had been taken away from everything that was natural to women and were left with drudgery and work, scant pay and food and natural despair. Even the stronger ones would be in drift, sooner or later.

We made no move to interfere in these scenes of cheap love and obscenity and as we made our way through the building that night, there was a constant movement from one floor to another as men sought women and women sought men. These relationships were carried on with quite a natural placidity and no one remarked on the situation. It was not a matter to concern us and evidently, these relationships had spring up many years before and probably in some cases, the participants had been married. Some of these people were homely and careless, some wretched looking, some common, and an amazing number pretty. Most were reserved and dignified. None of them made any advances or insinuations toward us. They said that they had waited many weeks for us. They said they knew the Americans were in the vicinity and had waited patiently. It seemed an insult that they were under guard and they could not understand why they could not associate with the American soldiers. They were pleased to talk with us and after Hanson and I had been relieved, we talked with a couple of the girls and played ping-pong with them in an upper room- and I mean ping-pong! Soldiers are soldiers. The American is not so brutal and bloodthirsty as the Germans or Russians. He is slicker, but not as polished and smooth as the Frenchman.

There is an item I neglected to comment on. This is the soldier’s prerogative to loot. We are no longer looting as we did before and some of the boys in this outfit are actually disappointed that they are no longer on the line. For some of them, it is quite a pleasure to capture the enemy and take over his personal equipment. When you have lined up the prisoners, you search them for knives, weapons and binocular, compasses, etc., and take them. The German Luger is quite a prize, for example. A Luger pistol brings anywhere from $50 to $100. I have found one, also, tow .30-caliber pistols. Some boys have picked them up by the dozen and usually made big money. I recall, I believe it was in Elbingerode, that I ran a patrol on communications and I walked from our platoon down to the CP. It was very dark and the streets were black, and I had some fears that the Germans would be sniping at us. However, we arrived safely at the CP and Capt. Cutler and some of the others were there. They brought in a German officer who stood rigidly at attention. Not a word was said to him, but very quietly, all of his personal effects such as his rings, watch, pocket book and what not were removed. At one moment, he protested, but the officer standing behind him shoved his pistol into the German’s back and the protest was quickly quelled. The officers continued to cruelly strip him of his personal belongings. We noted that it was deeply disturbing to him when they took away his ring – which must have represented some deep affection – even though his emotions were only a flicker across his face.

When we searched prisoners, we did not stop at guns, pistols and binoculars. We took their watches and jewelry and money. It was looting, supposedly punishable by death, but we did it. On the fighting front, in the heat of battle, who knows the difference? Some of our fellows have $400 or $500 worth of loot and some do not hesitate to loot the dead. Human depravity in this respect is appalling. If the captive has baggage, that too is ripped open and looted. Anything is fair game. For instance, I am wearing Jerry underwear right now, a Jerry belt and I carry a Jerry blanket. Nor does looting stop with soldiers, far from it. If you come to a town where civilians have left, or are in their bunkers, and you meet enemy resistance, a certain amount of destruction is required. The heat and fury of battle will excite you. You feel a little more wild and free and thus as you move from house to house, the urge to loot takes hold. In Bonn this was particularly true. Some fellows acquired great sums of money there. But one fellow got fooled. He ran onto a stack of German notes. Some of them are million-mark bills. He thought he was in. But the date on them was during an inflationary era and the bills had no value whatsoever.

Americans do not destroy for no reason. They are not vandals. They may mess up a place, but certainly their conscience bothers them when they do. My personal rule is that when you come into a town and it proves deserted, anything goes. But if you come into a town knowing that civilians are still in their houses, then there will be (no)[7] looting. As Murray said, you can’t rightly take things from people right in front of them.

One doesn’t bother to consider the value of items one picks up. For example, I saw one fellow pick up a violin, I would say a very expensive one. He played it for a while, then broke a string and ended up smashing it. I think it is the Third Amendment of our Constitution in which one of the most sacred rights of the American people is set down. It is that troops shall not be quartered in private homes except in emergencies in time of war. If the Germans suffer no other punishment, or no other affliction, this imposition would suffice. To have each private home invaded, to have troops in small rooms. Let me tell you, it is hell. To have your house invaded, your kitchen taken over with all the food and dishes, men sleeping in your beds, with their dirty clothes and shoes on, this is hell. We use their dishes and break them, of course. We burn their wood and coal to heat heir rooms a lot warmer than they do. And if we don’t like the way things are run around the house, they are chased out. I can’t always agree with some of this harshness. An old lady is an old lady. Some of these Americans show disrespect for women in general. Of course, the German woman is quite capable of taking care of a lot of the abuse. It is obvious that their own menfolk treat them no better. I remember one instance, just back in a village the other side of the Weser, where we had gone into a very fine and neat house. Everything was polished. The kitchenware, the stove, the cupboards, where all shiny and clean. The living room was particularly well kept and the beds were covered with a thick ticking and a fine quilting. We walked in, having been in the mud and rain. The woman of the house protested and asked us to leave, she shouted and screamed. Newman walked in, took off his pack, unslung his tommy gun and cartridge case and threw it on the bed. She went over and took it off and put it on the floor. She begged him. He picked it up and threw it back on the bed. He then lay down on the bed. She tugged at him and asked him to leave. Finally, Newman got off the bed, picked up his tommy gun, pointed it at her and pushed her and ordered her out of the house and down into the basement. Newman said, “If the old bag comes back up, I’ll kill her.” She was a rather aggressive[8] and stubborn old German woman and she did not realize how earnest Newman was. But in any event, she got the message, and left.

Speaking of looting, I have also forgotten to mention the incident of the German motorcycle. On the first morning, as the German6th Army was passing by us, an officer was coming down the road on a motorcycle and as he reached the overpass, he was forced to dodge to the left to avoid a truck and the cycle skidded out from under him. The German went sprawling across the road and the motorcycle and as he reached the overpass, he was forced to dodge to the left to avoid a truck and the cycle skidded out from under him. Ther German went sprawling across the road and the motorcycle went into the ditch. Like a flash, the Frenchmen who were standing by the road dashed out and grabbed the motorcycle and began wheeling it back to their barracks. The officer started after them, but I stopped him and tuned him back. He had been carrying a small set of binoculars, which he had dropped during the mishap and which were lying in the road. I picked them up and order the German on his way. He said not a word and headed down the road on the run.

[1] This inquiry interests me, as I not so long ago struck up a conversation with a professor at the University of Connecticut about the Jewish issue in Germany during the war, and what was happening in the minds of the German people in the midst of genocide. This man said that during the war, Jewish children would begin to disappear from the classrooms, and even though these may have been their friends, questions were never raised, and no one ever asked; Why?

Another German friend of mine, in Connecticut, speaks about her experience with the war through her poetry in her book, “The Ocean Carries Me.” In a particular poem she speaks about her father, getting into his uniform and leaving to attend meetings with other members of the SS. There wasn’t any discussion about where he was going, or what he was doing. This event took place in the backdrop of another reality taking place in the household, and that is the bed-ridden state of her terminal mother in the home. All of this gloom is portrayed in the backdrop of the Nazi State. Gerda, to this day laments the role of the Nazi’s control in the lives of the Germans, and even ended up marrying a Jewish man. This was the fate of another female Jewish friend of mine, whose family suffered in concentration camps. She married a wonderfully sweet German man. Since I am relating stories of the war, way back, when I lived in Nebraska, and working to get my state residency so I could return to the university, I found a job in the Admissions office at UNL. Basically my job was to file transcript request letters, and pull the files so the records got sent. Not a very diversified job, but a job nonetheless. I spent a lot of time conversing with people in the office.   I certainly was a sociable individual at 19 years of age. One of the ‘secretaries’, or Administrative Assistants, as we call them today, was an English woman, a chain smoker, who lived in London, during War II. She recalled with vehement hatred for the Germans, how the Londoners had to retreat to bomb shelters, as the city was being destroyed. This is something that she continued to have nightmares about all of her life, and perhaps the source of her smoking. What I have learned from these lessons is that the more people talk about these experiences, whether it is in a positive, or negative tone, the more we can learn from the past mistakes. Then again, the same issues of hatred continue to surge between people of differing countries. Take the Serbs, and Croatians, for example. I have a French friend married to a Serb. When I asked her if they were going back to Dubrovnik this summer, she corrected me and said, Montenegro, and made it quite clear that anything related to Croatia was unacceptable in their household.

[2] Of course, Richard is speaking ironically.

[3] ‘Old folks home’ is a politically incorrect term, today.

[4] J One thing that delighted people about Richard was his profound, at times, very corny, sense of humor.

[5] If my dad were here today, I would have to educate him on the topic of race, and he would listen, with a gentle scolding, of course. First of all, my understanding is that French, German and Italian, are ethnicities with a cultural commonality, comprising many races. As time goes on these ethnicities become more and more complex, culturally and multi-racially, while retaining cultural practices. The French, for example, still go every morning to buy their baguette, whether they are Moroccan, Algerian, Breton, or Norman. It is also my understanding the Jews are a religious group, also comprised of various races and ethnicities. Richard, reflecting pride in his French heritage, is actually falling into the trap of cultural, and ethnical supremacy, although he has done this without malice, and in a humorous way, not to mention the single one issue on his mind, which is sex; an understandable preoccupation for a soldier in the war. In light of a discussion on the purity of race and ethnicity, how could one argue today that the intermixing of races and ethnicities is not a positive force in the world, and perhaps a possible solution to the hideous acts of genocide, that have taken place.

[6] accepting

[7] Does he mean ‘no looting’ here?

[8] Seems she was entitled to be aggressive.