By Sol R. Brandell

An autobiographic account from 1st December, 1942, through 31st March, 1946
in the European Theater of Operations

Table of Contents
At City College of New York and Enlistment
Call to Active Duty
Infantry Basic Training, Camp Wolters, TX
Examination and Assignment to ASTP
ASTP and Pre-Med at University of Cincinnati, OH
89th Infantry Division, Camp Butner, NC
Overseas to European Theater of Operations
Combat Duty Begins
Discovery of Concentration Camps at Ohrdruf
Combat Duty Continues
V-E Day and Return to Normandy
At University of Paris
Occupation Duty at Linz-Urfahr, Austria
Second Return to Normandy and Return Trip to the US

Combat Duty Continues

One night, about 4, or 5, miles away from the city of Zwickau, in Bohemian Saxony, a large group of British Blenheim bombers droned overhead, high up above us, and dropped what must have been 6-ton blockbuster bombs on Zwickau. Even though we were very distant from Zwickau, we could see the night sky light up above the city and feel the reverberations in the earth, upon which we were standing, with each bomb drop! Later the next day we entered the city and found considerable armed resistance against us! This was strange because the bombing appeared to have been so effective? The havoc wrought by the bombing was most evident in what remained of one of the great railroad centers of Germany! The immense gantry cranes were twisted and smashed, there were craters of about 80-ft diameter and 30-ft deep, and most railroad buildings, track-switching roundhouses and warehouses, were no more than piles of rubble! Luckily, though, most civilian apartment buildings and factories seemed to be in good shape. Evidently the British bombardiers were quite careful and accurate in destroying mainly the railway center! The city's military and civilian authorities finally surrendered to our division commander after considerable fighting!

Later, we came upon the NSDAP (Nazi Party) Office building where we were to be billeted. After wandering around inside the empty building, I found a large auditorium which had a beautiful 9-foot long, Bechstein grand piano standing on the stage! Seeing this reminder of civilization in the midst of war was like drawing in a breath of cool fresh air on a hot humid day! I couldn't resist sitting down, leaning my rifle against the bench, and playing a Chopin waltz, or at least what I could remember of one, at that moment! Some other GI's in my outfit who had been standing in the rear of the auditorium began applauding and asked why had I kept it a secret? My "tongue-in-cheek" reply was that it didn't seem to be a very productive topic of conversation during an anti-tank encounter, a firefight, or an artillery bombardment! As a matter of fact, up to the very moment of seeing the piano, I'd almost forgotten I could play!

While on guard duty, one night, at the destroyed railroad station of this same city, Zwickau, I intercepted a German girl, carrying a basket, searching for coal in the darkness. (I was detailed to guard the coal so that we could ration it the next day, as equally as possible, to the local German civilians). When I arrested the girl I escorted her, at rifle point, to the unoccupied stationmaster's office which was well lit because the interior electric lighting system was still working. Once inside, I threw back the hood of her black cloak and was confronted with a breathtakingly beautiful, golden-haired young woman, about 17 years old, with kind, violet-colored eyes and perfect features, who pleaded with me not to report her to my superiors. She told me that her family had sent her to find some coal because they were freezing at home! (I told myself that her family knew what they were doing as who could harm such an angelic vision!) I told her not to worry and showed her where to find all the coal she could carry. She asked me when I would be free the next day, invited me to her home and said she'd return the next morning to show me the way; Even though we were not supposed to fraternize with the Germans, I was curious; she came back to take me there the next morning after I was relieved of guard duty. (When she took me by the hand to lead me to her home, her touch sent such a tremor through my body that I had to make myself remember she was an enemy!!) When she came to lead me to her home, my squad leader seeing her, couldn't believe his eyes and asked how she came to be here! Jokingly, I told him I'd always had to "fight off beautiful women with a stick"! He laughed and said I sure do believe you now! From now on I want you to give me lessons! Afterwards, my nickname changed from "Brandy" to "BTO", i.e., GI slang for "Big Time Operator"!

Her parents greeted me warmly and thanked me profusely for letting their daughter take some coal so they could be warm. Although her father was quite handsome, I could see where her beauty came from because her mother, though older of course, was just as beautiful as her daughter!

They had an upright piano and noticing that I had looked at the trademark, asked if I could play? I said I could play a little, sat down after placing my M1 gently on the floor, and played the same Chopin waltz that I'd played the other day in the NSDAP building. (I didn't mention that their piano was badly out of tune, unlike the NSDAP piano, which had sounded pretty good to me!) They asked how could I play so well and yet be an infantry soldier? I replied that I didn't play all that well and, anyway, in a democracy like the United States of America everyone was expected to fight for his country regardless of his economic, educational or social class! Actually, in my heart I knew that this wasn't really true but I couldn't admit this to an enemy civilian who I wasn't sure even knew what "democracy" meant!

As they had a very nice home, I realized that they must have been, at the very least, members of the Nazi party or descendents of ancient German nobility? I told them that I was Jewish ...they didn't blink an eye and said that they had never met a Jewish person before. I told them about Ohrdruf and they couldn't believe it was true? I told them I hadn't been sure about it myself till I'd seen it with my own eyes and what did they think about what had happened to all the Jews that had lived in Germany, not to mention the Jews who had lived in all the other countries the Germans had invaded? They said they still couldn't believe it. (How could a lovely young woman with such kind eyes condone the murder of innocent people?) I couldn't believe them and didn't think they would have committed suicide like the Burgermeister of the town of Ohrdruf and his wife had done after being forced to walk through and view all of the horrors in the Ohrdruf concentration camp!


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