Wednesday, June 25, 2014

An Afternoon At Levindale

Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital was a day long endeavor for interviewing veterans, and meeting some unexpected new resources. With the help of two employees of the hospital, John Otten and Helene King, we set out to go room to room with a list of names of possible veterans to talk to. At the end of the day, we had two men with strong stories, and I had met someone along the way with stories of World War II from a concentration camp.

Frank Lebow, a doctor now residing in the nursing home, was on the USS Missouri when the Japanese was signing their treaty of surrender. As a teenager, Lebow enlisted in the Navy, and was put onto the ship after training. Lebow also saw Pearl Harbor, meaning he had the experience of being with the war from the beginning to the end, something not many can claim. On the topic of being a Jewish soldier, he said he was not treated any differently, everyone had one goal, and that was to get home at the end of the day. Frank Lebow also had family in World War I and spoke highly of his parents keep him on track during this time, encouraging reading and educating himself during this time.
Mr. William Mazer

Walking into William Mazer’s room, we found that the room was empty, and a man hunt ensued for this man to share his story. Going to a community activity to see if he was there, as we rounded a corner, he came out of nowhere saying that he knew he was running late to find us and he had a lunch in forty minutes that he had to be to, then starting laughing. Mazer told us of how his family comes from Russia and he was moved to the United States when he was around one year old. He joined the Army as a teenager and moved from base to base during training. Eventually after 3 years in the states at bases, Mazer was informed that he would be sent overseas, but when he reported, they told him he couldn’t go. They had lost his records, he did not exist to the Army, and was soon offered discharge, which he greatly took and reunited with his wife.

After two interviews so full of information, I was mentally exhausted and talking to my mother who was visiting my grandmother in the same building, when a man approached us. His name is David Friedman, and I was immediately taken back by the first thing he said to me, “out of everything bad comes something good.” He knew who I was because of my mother talking about me to fellow residents about what I was doing in the building that day, and told me I needed to hear a story from the World War II era.

My mother eating lunch with my grandmother in the garden

Friedman knew of a man named George, who was born on Pesach (Passover), and on his 8th birthday the Germans came and brought him to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. After spending years in this camp, George knew that something big was happening, because the Germans had started shooting just about everyone in the camp, but had run out of bullets with many still alive in the camp. They soon combined the prisoners of war in the camp and the Jewish people together, and were giving them bread. For the Germans to be giving these men bread was something incredibly unexpected, but George was so hungry that he was not going to question the motives of his captors. Before he could eat the bread, two Russians who were prisoners of war beat him and took his bread; George went to sleep hungry that night. The next morning, George was the only one alive in his hut. The Germans had poisoned that hut’s bread and the Germans in charge of that hut soon left after, knowing that the liberation was near. Bergen-Belsen was liberated that Passover. George said that it was מלאכים, the angels, and the Americans, saving this day for him to be liberated.

I know Levindale still has so many stories to tell and I plan on going back soon to try to help this stories get preserved in the way these will be soon.

--Molli Cole

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