Longform

Foreign Correspondence

Page 6 of 12

"So far I have not seen any examples of Nazi hatred. It's just like the training films told us -- Nazi flags gone; Hitler, just pictures left here and there on the walls of official buildings; and the army, in our trucks going back to the rear. But the Nazi system has only disappeared from the surface. Just before crossing the Rhine I saw a sign in big white letters on an underpass 'You Go to Berlin and Moscow Gets You.' So you see they're up to the old trick of trying to spread suspicion between the allies. And the little boys seem harmless, but they have a funny look, sort of like they were trying to hide a secret, or am I just reading my own suspicion into their look? And of course we run into such things as time bombs in buildings and armed resistance at the front to remind us of the Nazi regime...

"We see hundreds of Poles, Russians, Italians & French straggling down the roads, after our troops liberated them from the Germans who had forced them to fight and work for them. Each has a pack and all seem to be hungry. The movement is so fast and so great that there simply hasn't been time to organize everything. Even some of the German army has been by-passed, particularly service troops, and we don't seem to have room for all of them in the PW enclosures.

"Here in Germany the GI is picking up plenty of 'souvenirs.' Whenever they see something attractive and have room for it in the truck, they 'liberate' it. I have seen them go through a marble works (where headstones were made) and they carried off arm-loads of paper, light bulbs, chinaware, electrical fixtures -- even a fancy telephone. Nearly every truck has a German motorbike and a bicycle or two tied onto the side. Mattresses, typewriters, brief cases, cars, trailers -- nearly everything you can imagine, all being liberated...."

He wrote home the next day: "Still trying to size up these Germans. Saw one old man run over to a jeep load of German prisoners this afternoon and shake hands with one of them. An officer pushed him away. The people seem docile, though. One woman came by and asked if it was all right for the butcher to slaughter a beef. We sent her to the Military Government office. We do not fraternize, but do try to help things keep running. For example, we heard a cow mooing in the barn behind the house and, figuring that she was hungry or needed milking, we induced a couple of Germans to take care of her. They had been afraid to go into the barn and seemed very grateful that we took an interest.

"Tonight a Lutheran Chaplain held a service at the local Lutheran Church. I attended. There were only a few of us. The organ has a beautiful tone and the church is also beautiful in an austere Lutheran way. There's a picture -- American soldiers worshipping in a church built by the enemy. It was for soldiers only, but the civilians must have heard the music...."

By April 9, the Rainbow Division had shot past Würzburg and was poised to take Schweinfurt, whose ball-bearing works and other industries had made the city a target of intense Allied bombings.

"Everywhere, the German army's moved out, we move in," wrote Creasman on April 10, "occupying the finest houses in town, sleeping on feather beds, burning German wood in fine German stoves, listening to German music (very good) on German radios (also very good)...

"You write that you listen quite regularly to the Army Hour, and I hope you heard the Rainbow's 3 minute spot on Sunday's program... featuring an interview with a Lieutenant and a sergeant who were the first to cross the Main River into Würzburg when the Division assaulted the town...

"Some heavy artillery pieces are almost in our back yard and every time they fire, the radio, which has a habit of fading suddenly begins playing again. Incidentally I jump. The walls shake like the house is going to fall...."

In every part of captured Germany, the roads began to swell with some of the more than seven million Europeans displaced by the war. They moved in bedraggled droves.

"I have seen these little milk carts pulled by many," Creasman wrote. "Some have their stuff loaded on farm wagons which they pull, having no horses. I even saw one woman pushing a little two-wheeled 'dolly' or warehouse hand-truck! One man was actually pushing a baby buggy loaded with his belongings. A girl was carrying a huge bundle on her head. About fifty Frenchmen were loaded in a big rubber-tired wagon which was pulled by a tractor which shook... every time the motor turned over. At a snail's pace it was chugging along, and the men waved tri-color flags, while on the back and on the motor were chalked 'France' and 'Paris.'

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Edward Lebow
Contact: Edward Lebow