Friday, August 6, 2010

Light & Shadows: Excerpt VIII

In July 1945, the Second Armored Division enters Berlin, the first American unit to do so after the Allied victory. The Office of the Military Government follows a month later, establishing headquarters in the former Luftfahrt Ministerium (German Air Ministry) building on Hohenzollerndamm. Arnold is assigned to a unit of the Military Government called Liaison and Protocol, and his primary responsibility is interpretation. But he has a great deal of freedom to move around the city, and he uses his time to its fullest.

Arnold took this this image of Germans on a train.
It won him a first place award from the Berlin Observer,
an English-language newspaper for the troops.

One day, not too long after I was settled on Am Fischtal, I received a letter from a friend in Baltimore named Henry Goldsmith. When he learned I was in Berlin, he asked me to find his uncle, Julius Blumenstiel. He gave me an address and I discovered that Henry’s uncle had survived the war in hiding. He was still living in the attic, but he was in bad shape. Because he had been living illegally, he had no identification card. Without an identification card, it was as if you didn’t exist. You couldn’t get a ration card, and you couldn’t get enough to eat. But at the time, it was very difficult for the bona fide survivors to secure identification cards because it seemed that every ex-Nazi wanted to pose as an innocent Jew and reap the benefits.

Meeting Henry’s uncle made me wonder how many others were suffering. When I got back to headquarters, I told two of my Jewish buddies about my meeting, and we decided to try to help by providing Berlin’s surviving Jews with food and other necessities. We dubbed our efforts “Operation Joint Forward.” The three of us wrote to our synagogues back home and the packages started pouring in. It seemed as if everyone in our congregations was sending things to us.

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