A Promise to Salomon – Terezin Prisoner No. 2171

Terezin GraveViking, the river cruise line which sponsors Downton Abbey on TV, provides beautiful video showing its ships on Rhine Cruises and also shows film of the many side-trips possible to cultural sites when the ships dock. They don’t mention one of the least popular trips, the bus ride from Prague to the nearby Terezin concentration camp. We took that trip five years ago and you can see from my long shadow over the grave of a prisoner named Salomon that it was late afternoon when I took the picture.

I said to myself as I stood there, “I wish I could do something for Salomon to mark his time in life.” His is one of many graves in a huge cemetery outside the concentration camp where the multitudes who died there are buried. It’s the camp the Nazis used to fool the International Red Cross, which sent a delegation to see if rumors of Nazi death camps were true.

The Red Cross concluded Terezin passed muster as what the Nazis said it was – a facility to protect Jews, especially musicians and artists. On the day of the Red Cross visit, there were candy shops set up displaying bon-bons and only neat, well dressed residents out on its streets. One survivor remembers a Red Cross delegate asking her how life was going at Terezin and the prisoner, having been warned by the SS guards, feared making an explicit statement. She tried to give away the scam to her questioner by saying it would be a good idea if the inspectors made sure to look carefully at the camp and she said she rolled her eyes as she spoke. Didn’t help. Continue reading

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My Aspirational Suits

suit40'sI have two great Ralph Lauren suits I never wear and they’re like new I’ve worn them so few times. There’s just this one problem. I need to lose ten pounds to wear them.

How do I come to own these suits?

About 15 years ago, I went through a program at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York to lose 15 pounds and I did. They gave you a chocolate-tasting drink to substitute for two of your meals a day, which was a big trend in weight loss then.

After about six months, I was one slim trim guy.

Wham.

I ran out and bought the two suits at Bloomingdale’s. It was almost summer so, after just a couple of wearings, the suits went into a storage bag till fall. When I tried them on in September– uh-oh– I had gained back six pounds and the fit was now tight.

I put the suits away, planning to lose the six pounds. But I forgot them and gradually gained back the weight I had lost

This week I again found the two great suits. Here’s how I’m putting them to use. I’ve hung them in my clothes closet right where I can see them every day and I’m going to get into those suits again by cutting the size of portions and exercising more often.

Lose weight nowI was also thinking about signing up for the hospital weight-loss program again. But it’s changed and is for people who need to lose 50 pounds or more and isn’t based on a tasty liquid drink. Science marches on. Now they give you counseling by behavioral therapists, registered dieticians, and exercise physiologists.

Not for me. I just want to take off the 10 pounds that will restore my Ralph Lauren suits to splendor. Seeing the suits every day, will be like being at a spa and getting motivated to lose the weight.

I start next week.

To get ready, we had dinner last night at a restaurant which has an ideal fish and vegetables health menu–with one exception. The best dessert is a chocolate fondue. They bring you hot melted chocolate syrup and items to dip in it: slices of banana, chunks of other fruit, just a few small brownies.

For anyone reading this post about my suits, but who needs to lose a lot more than my 10 pounds (plus whatever the chocolate fondue added) I recommend hospital weight-loss centers or programs like Weight Watchers. They’re science-based and I know the people at St. Lukes-Roosevelt hospital were serious and helpful in the days when I took off the 15 pounds.

If you want to learn more about their system, you can get in touch with the contact there at Rweil@chpnet.org. They’re among the most experienced people in the weight-modification field and have probably learned a lot since the days I was on their liquid-drink treatment.

mens-fashion-1940s3And it would be a good idea to find some clothing hidden away in a closet and join me in hanging aspirational clothing where it’s visible daily. I’m very confident it’s a can’t-miss system and I’ll report by spring how it’s worked.

However, if you happen to have developed your own system that can knock off 10 pounds, send it to me using the comments section of this blog.

It never hurts to have a Plan B.

REDEMPTION FOR A BULLY

you-give-us-the-fire-wwii-posterI ran into bullying twice in the Army. And, once, I was a bully myself.

Army bully number one walked behind me on a march that was the graduation exercise for Infantry basic training. If you made it through 20 miles of Georgia heat carrying a rifle and back pack, you were ready to ship out for combat in Europe, replacing soldiers who had been killed.

After we marched 15 miles, the soldier behind me began to tread on my heels and he

kept doing it till my temper lit up. Though my tormenter was a lot taller and outweighed me by 30 pounds, I yelled: “Get off my heels, you _____, or when we get back to the barracks I will break your _______head.”

The two expletives were words combining the letters c and k, which make a strong anger snarl.

He stopped and when we were back at our barracks, his eyes avoiding mine, we went our separate ways. Continue reading

Did My High School Classmate Help Massacre Nazi Soldiers?

MencrossingThey call it the fog of war. It’s a good phrase for how hard it is to keep track of what’s happening during a battle. It may be just as hard to tell what happened after the fighting stops.

This much is clear about the Battle of the Bulge and a small town in Belgium named Malmedy – Nazi SS troops slaughtered 100 or more American soldiers there who were their prisoners.

At a trial after the war, there were questions raised (by the Germans) about whether some of the American prisoners had picked up rifles they threw to the ground when they surrendered and resumed fighting. That story is obscured by the aforementioned fog but what is very clear is that a massacre took place of 100 Americans.

This all happened in winter; the fallen bodies froze; and forensic study of the preserved bodies confirmed they had been cut down in groups by machine gun fire and many bodies showed a single shot to the head at close range, evidence they had been shot again after they fell to be sure they were dead — double executions in the thorough style of Germany’s well-trained army. Continue reading

Running With Eggs

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A PR pose during basic training

What is it like to have your country taken over by an enemy Army, while it is defeating your own country’s Army? I hope we never find the answer to that question here in the United States.

But that’s the way life was in Germany in 1945 when it was on the verge of defeat after nearly conquering all of Europe. It was to become an occupied country with its population at the mercy of enemy soldiers as we swept through village after village pursuing the German Army.

I was in the conquering Army and Germans told us when we got to talking to them — the them mainly being frauleins, German women — that they were happy their part of Germany was being captured now by Americans rather than Russians.

Rape and rough treatment was the theme of the narrative they picked up from relatives fleeing the Russian-captured portion of Germany, the East.

But what were we Americans like as conquerors? Continue reading

Fishing With a Hand Grenade

Symbols of manhood come in many forms. Grow a mustache. Curse a lot (though women have encroached on that one). Develop big muscles. Try to ‘make out’ with almost every woman you encounter.

As a Combat Engineer with my fellow 19-year-olds and a few guys into their 20s, the symbol was hand grenades. We wore them hanging from the lapels of our green mid-length field jackets. The idea was you were ready in case of an attack by Germans sneaking up on you, day or night.

American hand grenades of World War II were sturdy. They didn’t explode unless you pulled a ring attached to a pin hard enough that it came out of the grenade. You did the pulling while holding the grenade tightly, really squeezing, to put pressure on a metal handle curving around the grenade. The handle stayed in place as long as it was gripped tightly. Continue reading

My Memories of the Real Great Depression

The “Depression”, which most who lived through it had almost forgotten, came roaring back as a topic when the Great Recession began in 2007, and which 75% of Americans think isn’t over as of 2012 though the Business Cycle Dating Committee says it ended in June 2009.

Maybe the best way to describe the 1930’s depression is through the eyes of a little kid–me. Continue reading