Working for the U.S. Army

Year of Convalescence

"Here comes my buddy Oskar down in an American uniform."

"So a few weeks later when we were in town, this fella tells me, 'Hey, I saw your buddy Oskar.' I say, 'What are you talking about?' 'I know, I know, they stationed in the school over there.' So I run over to that school, and there’s a guard standing in the entrance. And I couldn’t speak English, so I tried in German. I’m telling him, showing my striped uniform.

I says, 'Oskar, Oskar! You know Oskar?' He say, 'He sure, Oskar come on down here!' Here comes my buddy Oskar down in an American uniform. After the convoy passed, he got up and started wandering around. And he asked some people, you know, and they told him there’s a P.O.W. camp not far away. And he marched towards the P.O.W. camp. Right. This is already the 27th, 28th of April. The Germans know the war is coming to an end. The guards let him into the P.O.W. camp, and the medics diagnosed he had pneumonia. They put him on medication. Okay?

On May 1st, that camp was liberated by the American army. All the P.O.W.’s went back state-side. But he, he was not an American citizen. So he stayed with that company, and came to that town. So he was telling me this
story, and he says, 'You gotta come, you gotta stay with me. You gotta live with me.' 'What am I gonna do?' 'You’re gonna work like I’m doin.’ I says, 'I can’t speak English.' He says, 'It’s okay. We have a captain. He’s from Chicago. His name is Kneelan. His mother was Polish. He talks Polish.'

So I went to work, and I worked in the kitchen with, as a translator. I kept…he spoke Polish and English. I spoke German and Polish. So we became a conduit between the American army and between the German population. And whatever he needed, you know, he used us to be the interpreters.

And I worked with that outfit for a while. And then they left. And we were assigned to another outfit, which was the 35th tank battalion of fourth armored-, third army, General Patton’s troops. And they were stationed on a baronial estate in southern Bavaria. And I went to work for them... I worked as an interpreter and assistant mess soldier...I spent a whole year with that company. That year was the year of convalescence, of physical convalescence, and of emotional and intellectual rebirth, thanks to the soldiers, the way they treated us, the way they cared for us."