Veteran Stories:
Jeffery Wolf Ostroff

Merchant Navy

  • Jeffery Ostroff, 1945.

    Jeffery Ostroff
  • Jeffery Ostroff, 2010.

    Jeffery Ostroff
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"I said to him, do you know what I am? He said, what do you mean? I said, Ich bin ein Jude, I am a Jew. Oh. So he was amazed. Oh he said, he says, okay, okay. I said, but it wasn’t okay."

Transcript

We had on some jeeps, deck cargo and some tanks, and they sent us to Antwerp and Belgium. It was unloaded there and we were there for a couple of days. Our crew went ashore and, of course, you know, the Germans had left. The war was still on, of course, and what happened was that we ran across two ladies, young ladies, who were, they were inside a bar, they had no food and they turned out anyway to be from concentration camps. They had got away previously and they needed looking after and they had no food and anyway, we found out that they were Jewish; and I was able to speak to them in Hebrew or Jewish rather, I should say. And they were very, very happy and they cried; and I went back to the ship and one of our officers who was very kind to me gave me a box full of food from the galley. I took it back to them and they were mystified; and they were so happy and they didn’t know what to do for us. So that was one of the things that happened that made me proud too.

All they said was that they were in the concentration camps and many, many of the people were murdered or killed, and they managed to get away. There had been a raid or something by the Allies and they managed to make it out of the camp; and they had worked their way over from south Belgium or wherever, and they made their way up, and that’s where they ended up, in Antwerp. As a matter of fact, the young girl there that was with them, she was probably, I think, in her early 20s, she had lived outside of Antwerp. And the other one was from Czechoslovakia, she said, and that was it. So we felt happy that we helped them and that was it, and that they were very thankful to us.

And then we had to report back and then we set sail again. We went back to England and we ended up in Northern Ireland, I think. Then we went back to Southampton and I got four days leave. When I came back for sign-on, they told me they are shifting me over to the [HMT] Aquitania which was a troop ship then. The next thing I know is I’m on my way to, to Canada.

We were two days out of Halifax and I had been on watch. I had a few hours off and I went to the stern end of the ship and I used to smoke cigarettes in those days. And I’m just standing there and it was a beautiful day. I started to smoke a cigarette and, all of a sudden, a voice behind me said, you have cigaretta? And I turned around; it was a German POW on the deck. And he was cleaning the deck. And, of course, they were dressed in the special type of uniform, if you want to call it that, with a big red circle on the back. I saw two or three others; and they were cleaning the deck on the stern. But there were guards there, with Sten [submachine] guns. And some of them were from Quebec; and he said, can you give me a cigaretta? I said, are you allowed to smoke? Oh yes, it’s okay. So I said, well, why should we give you a cigarette? And he said, well, the war is over and that’s why I’m going back home, to England and then I go back to Germany, to my wife and children. I said, oh yeah.

And I said, I have to tell you something, though you may not like what I’m going to say. And he understood English fairly well, because he’d been in Canada for almost two years. It was a prison and he was up in northern Ontario; and he said he was chopping down trees while he was there or something, during the war at the camp where he was, the prison camp. And he turned around and I said to him, do you know what I am? He said, what do you mean? I said, Ich bin ein Jude, I am a Jew. Oh. So he was amazed. Oh he said, he says, okay, okay. I said, but it wasn’t okay. I said, you know what we’re finding out now? What the Gestapo [German secret police] and what the Germans did to the Jewish people? Not only Jewish people, other people as well; and the prison camps and the concentration camps. [He said,] well, I heard, but what can I do, I, I was only nothing and the German army, blah, blah, blah.

And, anyway, so I walked away from him and just then, I heard a shout and one of the guards from Quebec went over and knocked the cigarette right out of his mouth and kicked him, and said, get back to work. And he came right over and he said, don’t you ever give them anything again. I said, okay. I said, but the war is over. He said, it doesn’t matter, they are still prisoners.

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