29 March, 2012

29 March 1945


438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
29 March, 1945
Hello Sweetheart!

This one is on the fly and I’m writing on a rough board – so excuse the scrawl – or don’t I always? The weather is rather sour today – but our spirits are still excellent – as is the course of the war. It’s pretty difficult to keep up with it – even over here because of security blackouts etc; reminds me of the breakthrough into Belgium by the Germans last winter when we hardly knew what was going on – but how different!

Nothing much else to tell you, darling because we’re hopping around so much and besides – I’m on my way again. Always time to tell you I love you, dear, and miss you. But maybe soon – maybe soon. Love to the folks – Happy Passover and
All my deepest love

Route of the Question Mark


(A) Schoenberg to (B) Bad Marienburg, Germany (30 miles)
26 March to 29 March 1945

March 29... Marienburg. We lived in what was once a clinic, and had to have four guard posts. A fine spot, nevertheless, and we would liked to have stayed longer, but we got a march order in the middle of the night and pulled out almost as soon as we arrived.


about Passover in Germany in 1945

From Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 29 Mar 1945 comes this article:
In all of Germany's oldest Jewish settlements - Frankfurt, Cologne, Trier - American Jewish soldiers this evening began the traditional observances of Passover.

The handful of Jewish of civilians who remain in this area will celebrate their first open Passover in more than a decade as guests of the American soldiers as a result of a decision by the military authorities who ruled that this would not constitute fraternization with the enemy since the Jews, having been legally outlawed by the Germans, were, therefore, not enemy nationals. In addition, civilian attendance at religious services of soldiers has been authorized in cases where no local leader of the religion exists.

SEDER HELD IN GODESBERG IN ROOM WHERE HITLER SAW CHAMBERLAIN. Of all the Seders being held along this front tonight at various places, the choicest location will be the Dreesen Hotel in Bad-Godesberg, where Chaplain Sidney Lefkowitz, of Richmond, Virginia, will preside over the feast and religious ceremonies in the conference room where Hitler conferred with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, in 1938, a few weeks before the Munich Pact was signed.

Dreesen Hotel, Bad Godesberg, Germany in 1938

Chamberlain and Hitler meeting at the Hotel Dressen
in September of 1938

What will be probably the largest Seder will be held in Erefeld in the only comparatively intact synagogue found so far in Germany. Here, Chaplain Captain Marvin Goldfine, of Philadelphia, will hold services for about 1,000 men. All new dishes - and therefore kosher for Passover - have been obtained from a German warehouse.

Synagogue in Krefeld, Germany before Kristallnacht in 1938

Remains of Synagogue in Krefeld, Germany - after Kristallnacht
Photos from the Center for Jewish History web site

In Cologne another American Jewish chaplain will conduct services for the city's Jewish civilians in the ruins of the once impressive synagogue on Monart Strasse.

Many of the Seder locations, which were planned several weeks in advance, had to be shifted suddenly due to the forward rush of the rears. Nevertheless, it is estimated that at least two-thirds of the Jewish soldiers will have an opportunity to participate, Men of the 9th Tactical Air Camps of the 9th Air Force will attend services in a former German barracks. Capt, Meyer Goldman is officiating at the services of the 29th TAC of the 9th Air Force, where Lieutenant General William Food Simpson of the Ninth Army and Brigadier-General Richard Magent of the Air Force will be guests of honor.

REFUGEES FROM REICH CELEBRATE PASSOVER IN GERMANY AS GUESTS OF U. S. CHAPLAINS. Captain Lefkowitz, who has been storing his Passover supplies in a room adjoining Ritler's former suite at the Dreesen Hotel, said that the matzohs were baked in England for the American Jewish Welfare Board, the wine was obtained from a vintner in France, but Germen hens are supplying the baked eggs required at the seders. German gardens are also providing the traditional bitter herbs, symbols of the oppression in Egypt, the escape from which Passover celebrates.

Wherever possible, men in the front lines across the Rhine are receiving time out to attend Seders, which is the customary procedure in the Army for all important religious observances. These boys will be taken to rear installations by truck and then returned to the lines.

The chaplains have worked terrifically hard to arrange these services and many of them are planning to conduct six or seven Seders and services within the next two days. Two of them, Capt. Wolf Plant and Capt. Herman Dicker will be celebrating passover in their own homeland, for they fled from here after the rise of Hitler.

Here is one person's account of that Passover, as written by Dennis McCarthy in the Los Angeles "Daily News" on 5 April 2007 and titled "BROTHERS OF FAITH CELEBRATED PASSOVER ON THE BATTLEFIELD".
The care package from home caught up with Sol Rothman while he was sitting in a foxhole on the front lines in Germany a few days before Passover in 1945. The German army was retreating and the war was winding down, but men were still fighting -- and still dying.

"What'd you get, Sol?" a couple of his buddies asked, eyeing the package and hoping it contained homemade cookies that their good buddy Sol would surely pass around. The 19-year-old ripped open the package and smiled. It wasn't cookies. It was a Passover "kit" from his parents back in Brooklyn. A couple of boxes of matzo, a small bottle of Manischewitz wine and 10 Haggadahs -- books containing the order of the Seder service and prayers.

"We had a new company captain named Silver, a red-haired Jewish gentleman," said Sol, now 81, running his fingers across a Bronze Star for bravery, one of the proudest possessions of his long career as a medical doctor. The citation says Sol earned it at the Battle of the Bulge for crawling through heavy enemy fire not once, but twice to drag wounded buddies to safety. Sol always figured if the bullets didn't get him that day, the pneumonia he was suffering from certainly would. Luckily, neither did. That was why a few months later, he was sitting in that foxhole opening a care package from home, and praying the war would finally end.

"The captain decided we should celebrate Passover, so the company cooks rounded up chickens and vegetables from the German farmhouses to prepare the meal, and I supplied the matzo and wine," Sol said. "The only problem was there were only nine Jews in the whole company, and we needed one more for a minyan (the minimum number of men for a prayer service). We were pulling our hair out trying to find that 10th Jew when a Catholic chaplain walked up and asked if he could be the 10th man. We looked at each other and said, 'Sure, why not?"

So there they were, nine Jews and one Catholic celebrating Passover -- the exodus of the Jews from Egypt -- on a battlefield in Germany.

"It went great except for the wine," Sol remembered. "We were each supposed to drink four cups, but we only had one small bottle of Manischewitz for 10 guys. Each cup was only a few drops. Other than that, it was perfect. Afterward, the chaplain gave each of us a hug. He had tears in his eyes. He reminded us his boss, Jesus, was Jewish, and the Last Supper was a Passover celebration."

Jews, Christians -- didn't make any difference, Sol said. They were all brothers of faith standing out there on that battlefield in Germany 62 years ago breaking matzo and sipping Manischewitz.

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