American Soldier Shares Different Side of Holocaust Experience

Article excerpt

Byline: Diane Dassow Daily Herald Correspondent

Alfred Rubin's teeth remind him every day of the horrors he saw and lived as a Jewish officer serving with the Allied forces during World War II.

The two bridges in the Naperville man's mouth also bring back memories of the primitive dentistry practiced on his teeth, which were damaged, he said, from clenching them so much in war.

"I visited a dentist in an apple orchard (on a march to Cherbourg, France). He had a portable chair and a foot pump, which he used to operate the drill," Rubin recalled.

"The dentist kept jumping into his foxhole as bombers flew over to bomb Saint-Lo, two miles away."

Though the ground shook, Rubin remained in the chair. "I had a ringside seat," he said.

The 50 or so people who heard Rubin speak of his war experiences recently at Congregation Beth Shalom in Naperville shared a chuckle over his quip. But his recounting of the plight of the Jews during the Holocaust was received with sobriety.

"This is very serious," said Ruth Broche of Naperville. Broche is chairwoman for Jewish education for DuPage-Will Hadassah, the Zionist women's organization that sponsored the evening's talk.

"We look at different aspects each year," she said of the group's annual remembrance of the Holocaust. "This year, we're looking at the very large part the armies played."

Though Rubin was wounded the day before his unit liberated one of the most notorious of the Nazi concentration camps, he said he considers himself a liberator nonetheless. "I was a liberator on June 6, 1944, when we landed on Omaha Beach."

Rubin went on to describe D-Day and beyond, setting the record straight about a quote in the book, "The Longest Day."

"Cornelius Ryan got his notes mixed up. I was not a casualty on the island. That came later," he told his audience, most of whom know him, not as a reference in a history book, but as a longtime member of the Naperville temple.

Born in Naperville in 1920, "across from the Gap store," Rubin shared with listeners his recollections of being the only Jewish boy growing up in the mostly German town of 5,000 people.

He told of swimming in a pool where "No Jews" was posted.

Broche said it is remarkable that a person with the challenges Rubin faced would later make such a mark on society.

"Mr. Rubin is a driving force, not only in the Jewish community of Naperville, but in Naperville itself," Broche said. …