Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

By Anita Brostoff; Sheila Chamovitz | Go to book overview

Germany, 1945: View from a Tank
Henry L. Marinelli
Captain, 493rd Armored Field Artillery, 12th Armored Division, 7th Army

Death Scene at Landsberg, Germany

Our 12th Armored Division had just crossed the Rhine river, on a flimsy pontoon bridge, moving into Worms, Germany. We had the German military army on the run, averaging fifteen miles a day.

In March of 1945, warm spring air had finally arrived. Our tanks motored along the beautiful countryside, past the farmers plowing fields, the trees and rolling terrain deceitfully picturesque. Ox-drawn carts with large oblong wooden tanks sprayed cow urine on the ground, causing a noxious stench.

In the distance, smoke came from inside the dense forest. Ordinarily, this scene is not unusual in day-to-day combat. But Captain Meuser, in the lead vehicle, felt something was curious about it. Motoring at a faster pace, we approached a dirt road. The column turned left through an open wire gate, into a large fenced-in enclosure. Several feet inside, our vehicles came to an abrupt halt. A panoramic view could be seen from the top of my tank.

Row after row of twisted, disfigured, starved, naked, charred, dead male bodies lay sprawled across the road, blocking our advance. Clouds of dark smoke rose above the camp, which reeked of burning tar and flesh. Flames burst out on all sides of the barracks, which were built halfway below the ground to prevent escape. No doubt, before our arrival the Germans must have poured gasoline on the roofs of the barracks with the internees inside.

A mix of emotions—disbelief, rage—overwhelmed us; tears blinded our eyes. After recovering from the shock, our first reaction amid the confusion and excitement was to aid any possible survivors. Scanning the thin disfigured bodies, I noticed a skeleton-like man doubled up in agony, unable to make a sound. His arm was outstretched, motioning for help. Lifting up his head, I tried to make him eat a piece of K ration, but he could not ingest the food. Just then, one of our medics shouted out, “Don't give them any food, the Red Cross is coming and will administer any care they will need.”

Suddenly three survivors appeared in front of me. They tried to communicate with me in German, but to no avail. Their faces were incredibly sad. All three were too emaciated to draw tears. The one clothed in a green and white striped uniform, with little energy left, gave me a weak but grateful smile. Through gestures I asked them to pose in front of the half-buried barracks, and

-283-

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Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vi
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword xiii
  • Timeline of the Holocaust xv
  • Map of Concentration Camps in Europe xxviii
  • Preface xxix
  • Introduction xxxiii
  • I - Snapshots: Jewish Life Before the Holocaust 1
  • Snapshots 2
  • War Arrives in Lithuania 3
  • A German Family 7
  • Betrayal 11
  • Parting 13
  • II - The Destruction of a Society 15
  • Herr B. 17
  • A Kristallnacht Journey 18
  • An Action Against the Jews 20
  • Leaving Germany, Leaving Home 24
  • Escape to England 26
  • The Best-Laid Plans 28
  • A Life-Defining Impression 30
  • The Harbinger of What? 32
  • The Beginning and the End 33
  • A Family Gone, One by One 34
  • The Abandonment of Mielec 36
  • A Shtetl's Life is Ended 37
  • What Ever Happened to the Jews of Skudvil? 40
  • III - Ruthlessness as a System 43
  • In the Dark 45
  • Theresienstadt 47
  • Dachau 50
  • Auschwitz, 1944 55
  • The Tenth Woman on Block Ten 56
  • The Means to Survive 58
  • The Gypsies 60
  • Nazi Murderers 61
  • How Many Made It? 63
  • The Law in Lithuania 64
  • Horrors of War 70
  • IV - The Lottery of Death and Life 81
  • German Roulette 83
  • My Sister Rieke 84
  • A Definition of Survival 86
  • An Unforgettable Passover Seder 89
  • Trying to Go Home 90
  • Bar Mitzvah Boy 93
  • The Skull with the Golden Braid 95
  • The Concentration Camp Lottery 96
  • The Girl with Wooden Shoes 101
  • The Wagon 102
  • The Child 103
  • V - Disguise as a Way of Hiding 105
  • In Constant Terror 107
  • Posing as a Christian 114
  • I Choose Life 116
  • Lost Families 119
  • Beyond Memory 121
  • A Hidden Child in Greece 123
  • VI - The Sustaining Power of Family Love 143
  • The Promise 144
  • A Mother's Courage 147
  • Miracles 151
  • A Dream of Milk 155
  • In Praise of Manual Labor 156
  • A Son in Deed 158
  • The Psychologist 162
  • VII - The Virtuous and the Vicious 163
  • A Narrow Escaper 165
  • The Kindness of Strangers 168
  • A Saintly Person 170
  • The Convent in Marseilles 173
  • Among the Righteous 176
  • The Killing Hunger 179
  • Captain Zimmer 180
  • The Volunteer Group 181
  • Mazel 182
  • The Farmer Kowarski 185
  • A Surprise Package 187
  • VIII - Disguise as a Way of Hiding 189
  • Lithuanian Friends 191
  • Unsung Heroes 199
  • Friend or Enemy? 202
  • Resist in Everything! 208
  • IX - Emergence into Light 225
  • The Golden Chain of Judaism 227
  • Flight to Freedom 236
  • The Last Hiding Place 243
  • One Day War, the Next Day Not 245
  • The Long Road After Liberation 247
  • On the Way to Health 249
  • An Ending and a Beginning 252
  • The Tiny Flame 254
  • X - The Aftermath: Remembering 257
  • The Aftermath 258
  • The Barber 260
  • Kaleidoscope: Salonika, Greece, 1945 261
  • The Sewing Basket 263
  • Children from the Camps Going to England 265
  • The Chief of the Gestapo 268
  • Herr Schluemper 270
  • The Miracle 272
  • To Bear Witness About the Holocaust 274
  • It Shall Not Be Forgotten nor Forgiven! 276
  • Addendum - Seen with My Own Eyes: Stories by American Liberators 279
  • The Photograph 281
  • Germany, 1945: View from a Tank 283
  • Gusen: A Nurse's Tale 286
  • A Letter from Dachau 288
  • I Saw Buchenwald 291
  • Re-Entry 296
  • Biographies of Survivor-Authors 298
  • Biographies of Survivor-Authors 298
  • Photographs of Liberator-Authors 336
  • Author Index 342
  • Story Index 343
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