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

At University of Paris

Later, I attended another party at the Danish Building and met many friends of the Mautort brothers, including a beautiful young Danish noblewomen (a baroness?) who leaned over the piano and smiled at me while I was playing a Chopin nocturne, which was about all I could remember at that moment, and speaking in French because I couldn't speak a word of Danish, said she really enjoyed my playing! Later on, after dinner at this party, we mutually decided, without actually even speaking about it, that we'd be friends. When we had a chance to be alone in her room, she gave me one of her room keys and confided in me that she'd like to have an affair with me but only if I didn't take it seriously! She explained that she was engaged to a young Danish nobleman and that her parents would never allow her to marry beneath her class! After a short period of disbelief, I replied that I appreciated her honesty but didn't care to be used in such a manner, and having already experienced enough discrimination before we met, that I would have to search for another girlfriend! Also, I immediately returned the room key she'd given me earlier and said "Good Bye"! After a few days she left a message under the door of my room at the American Pavilion but I never attempted to contact the Danish "blueblood" again and "that was that"! Later on, when it was too late, I mused about how stupid I'd been to be so self-righteous and deny myself the company, even temporarily, of a beautiful, intelligent and cultured young woman? I remembered an old Jewish saying, "Born a fool, remain a fool"!

Shortly afterwards, while walking in the Jardins de Tuileries in Paris, I came upon three lovely young women sitting on a bench during their lunch hour. I realized that the one in the center was very beautiful, with long chestnut-colored hair, dark blue eyes, and a warm, smiling face! I didn't know how to approach them so that I could meet the center one, when I noticed a GI from another outfit sitting on a bench nearby and holding a box camera. Suddenly, an idea came to me! I asked the GI if I could borrow his camera for a moment and that I'd return it to him in a second. He said I could use it but it wasn't loaded with film! I whispered that I really didn't need film and that he should please be silent! I then approached the three young ladies, doffed my cap, and told them that I wished to photograph them because they were so pretty, hoping that this would lead me to the name, address and telephone number of the special one in the center! The two other girls, sensing that I, and their friend, were mutually interested in each other said they were going back to work. Shtold them she'd follow them in a few minutes, whereupon we both arose, I offered her my arm, and we started walking a few yards behind them (as I passed near the other GI I returned his camera and whispered my thanks!) while chatting in French about what? I don't remember what we talked about because looking into her beautiful, dark blue eyes made my mind go blank! As we passed a Waterman's "Jif" fountain-pen shop, I realized I didn't have a pencil to write with, I therefore pulled her into the crowded store and asked the lady-clerk if I could use a pen and a small pad (for testing how a pen would write) and wrote her name (Claudette), address and telephone number as quickly as I could, returned the pen and pad to the clerk, and we continued on our way along the Rue Royale towards her workplace. She gave me her hand, which I kissed, and she went into her work. Later, I met her father and mother, as I was invited to many Sunday dinners thereafter. They lived in a fine apartment house with a drive-in courtyard and an ever-present concierge, which told me they were members of the middle class.

After she'd told her father that she loved me and wanted to marry me, he called me at the American Pavilion where I lived and asked me to come to his office in Paris and talk to him, etc., I told him I was Jewish; He said it didn't make any difference telling me he'd had many Jewish friends before the Nazi Occupation! He was the Directeur General of a fountain pen manufacturing company. I told him I had to go home, finish engineering school and provide for my mother, brother and sister and that I would return for Claudette. He countered with telling me he and his wife couldn't bear the thought of losing their only child to America and wished us to remain in France after our marriage. He told me my French was good enough to allow me to finish my engineering studies at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, (a world renowned university!) He also said he had already put a down payment, 70,000 (?) francs, on a nice home for us in Massy-Paliseau (a suburb south of Paris) In addition, he would employ me in his company where I could make a good living while I attended school. He even offered to help me support my family in New York! I realized that had I accepted all this he would, for practical purposes, own me completely! Also, though it was pure conjecture on my part, I had a fleeting thought he might feel some kind of guilt because, possibly he hadn't been able to help his Jewish friends during the Nazi Occupation, and felt he could redeem himself by helping me, a Jew, especially since his daughter loved me?

I told him that I appreciated his kindness greatly but that I must go home and discuss things with my mother and decide what to do. Although I'd promised that I would write and would eventually come back and marry Claudette, I knew I was a very independent person, and as Claudette, an only child, deeply felt she must remain in France and not desert her parents, couldn't "sell myself" into "slavery" no matter how beautiful, kind and sweet a person Claudette was. And she sure was! Or was it just an another application, on my part, of the famous Jewish saying, "Born a fool, remain a fool !!"

After completing the course at the Conservatoire National de Musique of the University of Paris, it was time to return to the 89th Infantry Division, I found that I was a soldier without a unit to report to as most of 89th Division had been shipped home! After school ended, the adjutant told me he didn't know where the 89th Division had shipped out to and told me to report to the Army Provost Marshal of Paris for further instructions. The Provost Marshal gave me a travel pass to go back to the camp in Normandy which had the main US Army European Teletype Center linked to US Army HQ in Washington, DC. I found out that I had been listed as AWOL at the 83rd Infantry Division HQ at Linz in Occupied Austria! Luckily I had the travel pass given to me by US Army Provost Marshal of Paris and the US Army Education Program Certificate given to me by the University of Paris (which still hangs on my wall to this day!) I managed to see Claudette before my departure for Normandy and explained that I might be going home from there but that I would write from wherever I was and would write from home as soon as I returned to the US. (When I actually arrived home at the end of March, three of Claudette's letters were already waiting for me!)


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