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MosheFeingold's Journal
MosheFeingold's Journal
July 23, 2018

A childhood friend died

I grew up in a small town that was either in Poland or Germany, depending on what year and political wind was flowing. It had a large, well-integrated, Jewish community. We went to synagogue on Sunday, for example. We fit in, were productive, if a bit poor. But we did not mind so much.

My father fought for Germany in WWI and came back to be a mechanic, a skill he learned in the Army.

My best friend, born 3 days before me, was a German boy I am going to call "Fritz Schmidt" for purposes of keeping his family business, their family business. His real first name was "Fritz." His last name was quite distinct.

Fritz was my next door neighbor, and we grew up inseparable. His dad and my dad worked together. His mom and my mom would look after us, depending on what was going on. We walked to school together. I went to his confirmation.

He would have gone to my bar mitzvah, but as the 1920s came to a close, an ill-wind was blowing, so I did not have one until I was much older.

My father's mechanical skills enabled him to get a much-desired visa to the USA to work in a shipyard, a rare boon during the Great Depression, so we left. I threatened to stay with Mrs. Schmidt, and she hugged me dearly when I left. "Moshe," she told me, "you will love America. There all men are free." She gave my forehead a kiss, and Fritz and I had an awkward young boy handshake, tears in our eyes. (It was just dust, I told my mom.)

World War II came around. As I have related here before, I was not much of a solider. I packed a typewriter along with my rifle, and my job was translating things Germans said, asking them questions, and telling Germans to do what my Captain told them to do."

And so, after the hostilities ended, I did not get a prompt discharge. I was busier than ever. I was promoted to Lieutenant and stationed at War Crimes Enclosure No. 1, formerly known as Dachau.

It had been re-purposed to house German POWs suspected of war crimes. My job was to interview German POWs to investigate crimes. I had a lot of discretion in my position. I can't think of one recommendation that was overruled. Most of the German soldiers I saw were beaten down, hungry, and very forthcoming.

It was a typical day. I had a line of people coming forward, each would sit on a little wooden chair. I usually had their German file with me, and we'd go through the list.

That day, I had a list of SS enlisted to go through. No guards. No obvious criminals. But still SS. So they bore a close look. If someone spouted out unrepentant antisemitic crap at me, I sent them back. Otherwise they were free.

And, yes, along came Fritz. A sergeant, I believe. He looked exactly the same, only talller. Still the boyishly handsome face.

"Fritz," I said. "It's Moshe. Moshe Feingold." He looked at me warily. With some hatred. "I was your neighbor," I said.

He looked right through me. "I had no Jew neighbor," he replied.

"Your mother's name was 'Ada'!" I exclaimed. "See, it says so right here!" I responded, showing him his own file. "She would bake cookies. Your home address is till the same!"

He looked me coldly in the eye. "My mother would not bake cookies for a Jew," he said with a sneer. "And I had no Jew neighbor."

I looked down at his file and considered. There was no obvious link to a war crime. He was not in a camp unit, but definitely in a support roll. He had to have known what was going on. But then, so did most Germans, despite what they said. I could have sent him either way.

I stamped his file "no evidence", and he walked out a free man, with a pre-printed sheet telling him to avoid certain public gatherings and . Caught a bus back home, I suppose.

Eventually, the post-war activities wound down and I went home. I forgot about Fritz.

Then I got old, and the Internet happened. Facebook, in particular.

I'd periodically either stalk or friend people I knew. Sure enough, I found Fritz. His profile was mainly private, but I could see his picture. It was him, all right. Same town, even. A mechanic, like his dad and my dad.

My hand hovered over the "friend" button, but I never clicked it.

Recently, I stalked him again. I had a brush with seriously illness, and was thinking a lot about my childhood and the war.

His page had been closed and turned into a memorial page. It was open.

Fritz had gotten married to a lovely woman, now dead. His mother, Ada, of course was dead.

He was survived by three children, two daughters and a son: Ada and Hilda.

And his son, Moshe.

Profile Information

Name: Moshe Feingold
Gender: Male
Hometown: NY, NY
Home country: Poland
Current location: Ruidoso, NM
Member since: Sat Mar 22, 2014, 04:43 PM
Number of posts: 3,051
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