Veteran Stories:
Harold Wolfman

Air Force

  • Groundcrew servicing a Hawker Hurricane IIB aircraft of No. 402 (City of Winnipeg) Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force (R.C.A.F.), Fairwood Common, Wales, March 1942.Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-136720

    Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-136720
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"He was with the British troops who had just liberated Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp. He told us that for the first time in his life, he was so angry at what he saw; he struck one of the German guards."

Transcript

My family didn’t have any decision in my enlisting because I went and enlisted without even asking their permission. My father had served in the American Army after the First World War and I thought I’d rather go into the Air Force than be drafted.

Oh, I went over to Normandy June the 13th, six -actually, June the 12th - six days after D-Day. I was working in Normandy outside Caen. And I was there until the [occupation] of Germany and then I wound up at Hamburg.

I know I went to Buchenwald and I could see the graves there. I saw the emaciated people in the [concentration] camps. And it left with a bad taste in my mouth and I’ve hated Germans ever since.

A British padre, a Protestant minister, spoke to us, he told us, he was a man of the cloth and was so distraught, so disgusted with what he had seen the day before. He was with the British troops who had just liberated Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp. He told us that for the first time in his life, he was so angry at what he saw; he struck one of the German guards. He knew the Canadians got parcels and food from home; until supplies could be appropriated for these emaciated, starving inmates, he asked us to give whatever we could, as well as what we could spare from our mess. To a man, everyone gave what they could. I had received that day a parcel from the Canadian Jewish Congress and I immediately gave it to the padre. I also told him I spoke Yiddish fluently. And if I could help, I was available.

I was speaking Yiddish to most of these people and they were glad to have somebody who could speak Yiddish to them because most of the British soldiers who were there couldn’t speak it and I could. Well, first of all, they didn’t know what a Canadian was most of the time. And I told them I was from Canada. And they thought Canadians were Americans and I said, no, we’re not Americans. And I told them I was in the Canadian Air Force and we were here to liberate them. And I spoke in the best Yiddish that I could and I spoke it fairly fluently at that time.

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