“We spoke Yiddish. I am glad that it was the first language that I learnt. It came very handy later, when I served in the army in Europe in 1942 to 1945. The language is very similar to German. The Germans understood me and I could understand them. Whenever we captured somebody, I was ordered to interpret, which I did, and many times we got lot of information from these people. They were very happy that we captured them, because they knew that Americans were good people and that we would treat them fairly. They ended up in a POW camp, of course, but they were getting meals three times a day. They were thus really happy that they had become prisoners of war.”
“Some five or six days later, thousands of British and American airplanes flew in there from various directions and began bombing the front in front of us. They ruffled it up a little bit, because we were to attack there the following day. They were laying eggs all day: bombs, bombs, bombs. It was a show that I will never forget as long as I’m alive. The ground was shaking. We were perhaps five miles away from it, but we saw it all. And there was much to see. For us, who have not yet had a combat experience, it seemed as quite an entertaining show. Then they told us that we would start advancing at 5 a.m. That we would start an attack. We thus had a breakfast and then we set out to fight for France. We chased them pretty well. The only thing that mattered was to advance. To advance eastward, at all costs, as Patton said. But the enemy was waiting for us, of course. They were sitting in tanks and aiming at us. Their tanks, that was something incredible. They had the huge Tigers. During the one year and eleven months in the battlefield I have lost two tanks and I temporarily lost my hearing.”
“There was a concentration camp in Ohrdruf. None of us really knew what was happening in concentration camps, not even our colonel. It would not have even occurred to any of us. Nobody had told us anything. When we passed through the barbwire fence, which was nothing for our thirty-ton tank, suddenly we saw ground full of bodies, emaciated, half-naked, in striped prisoners’ clothing. All were dead. The stench of the rotting bodies was horrible. You had to cover your face with a handkerchief. There were some other Jewish soldiers in the unit apart from me. We were looking at it and we couldn’t believe it. How can a human being do something like that to another human being? Then we discovered that there were not only Jews, but also homosexuals, Gypsies, and political prisoners.”
“There were people standing along the road as if they could not even wait for us. They kept calling: ´Hello! Hello!´ I will never forget it. All the beautiful girls who were climbing onto our tanks. The firemen prepared a celebratory performance for us. They dressed up in uniforms, grabbed their fire axes and brought a little wagon with a water tank in the middle. They did not have any horses or a car. They were pumping and spraying water from fire hoses. We thought it was funny, we have never seen anything like that, but it was nice of them. They wanted to show us how they were extinguishing fires.”
“One day I heard that there would be hanging. I have never seen an execution by hanging, and I wanted to have a look. I thus got into a jeep and drove about ten kilometers to a camp which was full of German soldiers. They were in uniforms, but they had already placed their weapons on a huge pile which looked like a pyramid. The officers kept their guns, and the soldiers were just lying around wherever they could. When I passed by, they waved at me. After a few more kilometers I arrived to the place where the hanging was to take place. They had already managed to build some sort of gallows, with nooses hanging from it, but they were not able to find an executioner. You know, a boy from America. I wanted to see an execution, but nothing came out of it. But I remembered the pile of weapons and I thought that a couple of them might come in handy. I thus drove to the camp, the Germans let me in, and I arrived to that heap. A lieutenant came to me, saluted me and I replied to him, and began loading the weapons into the jeep. ´Nimm, nimm!´ he began saying. ´Take them, take them! It’s all right!´ After a while I found a luger and I immediately tucked it under my seat. I was nearly unable to drive out of the camp, because they were all so curious and wanted to see what an American looked like. I returned to Sušice with the catch. We stayed there for several weeks. Then we went to Germany and from there home to the US.”
People were standing along the road as if they could not wait for us. I will never forget this
Harry Feinberg was born in 1920 in Minsk in a Jewish family as the eldest one of five children. His father earned his living by working in the field, trade, horse-trading. Yiddish was spoken at home. The living conditions in Russia after the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 were very harsh. During the civil war, the Feinberg family even had to hide in the forest for several weeks. In 1921 they decided to emigrate to the USA. Their journey was paid by the relatives who had already been living in New York for many years. His mother‘s brother worked as a tailor and his father‘s brother had a construction business. Harry‘s father and later Harry himself found jobs in the construction industry as well. Harry was drafted to the army when the USA joined the war. In 1942 he went through basic training in Fort Dixon in New Jersey, and subsequently he was sent for training in the tank unit in Fort Knox in Kentucky. After two years he was transported to Great Britain. On July 16, 1944 he took part in the invasion to France. As a tank commander he has lost two tanks during the battles. He requested to be transferred after surviving the destruction of the second tank. Harry then served as a liaison officer until the end of the war. While in this position he also participated in the liberation of the western part of Czechoslovakia. He still cannot forget the scene which he and his comrades saw after the liberation of the concentration camp in Ohrdruf. He died in Boca Raton, Florida, on September 12, 2014.