Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

By Anita Brostoff; Sheila Chamovitz | Go to book overview

Re-Entry
Arnold Blum
b. Nuremberg, Germany, 1922
Private First Class, G2 (Intelligence), 104th Infantry Division,
7th Corps, 1st U.S. Army

Late one afternoon a truck convoy picked us up in Malmedy to take us to Aachen. It was October 1944, and we were U.S. Infantry replacements destined to fill the gaps in the ranks of units depleted in the battles around Aachen.

We dozed while riding on the hard truck benches, our rifles held vertically between our legs, but woke to the distant rumble of guns. The rumble got louder as we got closer to our destination. The canvas truck roof precluded our seeing upward or to the sides, but we caught glimpses of gun flashes through the rear window of the truck cab.

It was completely dark when we stopped in the clearing of a woods inside the German border, where we were ordered to get off. After my eyes had adjusted to the dark I noticed, ghost-like, a tent camp where we would spend the night. The trees around us were arrayed in neat ranks and files, composing in turn large rectangular groves.

The next morning we boarded the trucks again, which took us to a large complex of buildings, a former German army camp outside Aachen.

I felt very strange being back in the land of my birth and that of generations of my family, the land for which my late father and his brothers had fought in World War I. The five and a half years of my absence had totally estranged me.

There were many facets to my estrangement. The architecture of the camp buildings was heavy and stolid. The walls were thick, the windows small, the roofs large and steep-sided. It all looked like the administration building in Concentration Camp Dachau, from which I had been released six years earlier. I felt unclean, as though I had touched something filthy and vile.

Germany had become an abomination in my mind, a somber, dank dungeon. The very orderliness and rectilinearity of the woods, where we had spent the previous night, and the camp, where we now found ourselves, combined to recreate in my mind an overwhelming feeling of oppressiveness from which I had been subliminally freed in America.

The camp itself represented to me a site of institutionalized aggression. From it, its former occupants had set out to overpower and suppress its neigh

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