Alfred Fleishman was born June 16, 1905 in St. Louis, Missouri. In October 1945, the American Jewish Congress sent Mr. Fleishman as a special consultant to the Secretary of Defense to study the psychological, economic and social needs of displaced persons in war torn Germany and Austria. In that capacity, Alfred Fleishman was an early eyewitness to the horrors of the Holocaust, and his research and report alerted many organizations in the United States to the forgotten people of World War II. Mr. Fleishman died May 28, 2002.
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Tape 1 - Side 1
GROBMAN: Today is July 10, 1980 and I am interviewing Mr. Alfred FLEISHMAN.
FLEISHMAN: All right, interviewer, where do you want me to start?
GROBMAN: You were in the American Army. What was your position?
FLEISHMAN: I was a Major in the Office of the Air Surgeon and the Rehabilitation of Combat Casualties Division. I was asked – do you want me to tell you how I got this…
FLEISHMAN: …by Henry Monsky. Henry Monsky called me. Henry Monsky was then the President of B’nai B’rith, the National President – International President of B’nai B’rith, and he was also President of the American Jewish Conference. You have enough information about the American Jewish Conference. He wanted to know if I can get a leave of absence to go and head up a team to study the displaced Jews in Germany and Austria. And that – there were many, many problems, and that things were leaking out; and that they were making an effort to get the government to send an official group.
There had been previous visits on a one or two day basis by Rabbi Stephen Wise, and I think Rabbi Silver, but if not Silver, it was certainly Rabbi Israel Goldstein. The reason I mention that is because when I got to the camps, I found great resentment that three great Jewish leaders – and the resentment was that they spent no time with these people. And I had the feeling that sometimes, that more damage was done than good when you run in and out on people who, as they said it, have only one desire, to get off of the bloody soil of Germany. And they really spoke in terms of…well, they were venomous tones; that’s the best way I can describe it, when they mention three really great leaders. But that’s not the point. They said they simply came there and looked at them and then went home and made speeches at their expense.
What he told me, that the American Jewish Conference had, the government, the State Department had agreed to send a team of three people, and that I would head up the team for the American Jewish Conference. The other members of the team were Dr. Samuel Sarr, who was Dean of Men at Yeshiva College, and Hans Lamm. As I recall it, we met Hans Lamm in London. He didn’t go over with us. We made the first trip on the Queen Elizabeth, this first trip not being a troop ship.
I got leave, and, uh, it was terminal leave I could get because I was leaving the Air Force; the war was over. But I was still in uniform and still a member of the Armed Forces, and had to conduct myself accordingly. The reason I said that – say that is because there were a number of opportunities to go through the underground to Palestine, and through the underground also we go into the British Zone.
Anyhow, I agreed to go, and then it took months, literally, several months, three months maybe before the American Jewish Conference could get permission from Eisenhower, who was the Supreme Commander, to let us in the country, let us in to the American Zone of Germany. The American Jewish Conference tried to get permission to go into the British Zone and the French Zone. They didn’t try for the Russian Zone. They were refused.
GROBMAN: So in other words, you tried – you were informed, you were asked in August of 1945, or September of 1945?
FLEISHMAN: No, I was…about that time, about June, July, August, because it took a long time to get the permission from Eisenhower. What had happened was that Harry Truman had gotten word through the American Jewish Congress, through the American Jewish Conference, the Joint Distribution – I’m leaving out the Joint – my God, they were right there. And through the Joint word leaked out about the treatment of the Jews in the displaced persons camps.
GROBMAN: Well, actually there was a major report, the Harrison Report.
FLEISHMAN: No, no, I’m telling you about – the Harrison Report came afterwards.
FLEISHMAN: And there was a, and Dewey was running for the presidency as I recall it, and he was beginning to make hey out of what he could, what he was going to do. President Truman, who was a Missourian, and whom we knew very well, began to ask questions. He sent a directive to Eisenhower asking Eisenhower to give him information about what was going on over there. He heard nothing, not a word, the word – the President of the United States’ requests for information about the treatment of displaced Jews was ignored. And we found out subsequently, when we got there, that the reason it was ignored, or appeared to be ignored – and I’ll get to Harrison in a second – was that Eisenhower never even saw the request! Eisenhower was surrounded by guys who did what they wanted to do, and let him know what they were doing. And their big job was to protect him and make him look good.
Truman then decided that he would find out on his own, and he selected Earl Harrison, who was Dean of Law at University of Pennsylvania, and a very towering figure in legal circles, to go and make an individual survey on site. Harrison came back with his report and it was a devastating report. It confirmed all the worst suspicions and fears. Truman did not make that report public; he sent that report to Eisenhower, and Eisenhower didn’t even acknowledge it.
And what really happened, we found all of this out on the scene when we got there, through JDC and then through my relationship with many Air Force men who had been in the Pentagon and then were assigned to Germany. And I ran across them and they told me some of these things. What had happened, of course, was that Eisenhower’s people did not tell him. They said, according to them, didn’t tell him about the Harrison Report until they could correct what the Harrison Report had said were wrongs. And they did correct a number of them, and then Eisenhower began to do something – they began to do something about them.
The problem, of course, was in General Patton’s area, which was a very, very bad situation. And most of the Jews – and I myself – began to feel it was reminiscent of Nazi Germany, the way Patton was handling the displaced Jews. He looked upon them…there seemed to be no question about it, but this was the general feeling we got from talking with whom, each company unit had a displaced persons officer, each one had, mostly they were social workers who had been social workers in private life. And we found that in the, in the Patton Third Army Zone, that the Jews were looked upon as being just a damn nuisance, and that “for God’s sake, why can’t they get out of our hair? We release – we released them from the camps, what do they want?” And of course, want they wanted was to get the hell out of Germany. There was no way they could get out of Germany; nobody would take them, et cetera. That history is a different history all by itself. But it was a very nauseating and a very traumatic situation to be able to walk into it and find this kind of thing that has happened.
What – when the – there was a meeting at Madison Square Garden that Dewey was going to hold…I’m trying to recall this. And that is the time right before – remember the New York Times, I happened to be in New York instead of Washington, and Dewey was going to raise hell about the plight of displaced people, displaced Jews. And a lot of Jews were coming to the Madison Square Garden rally. And it was the night before, the day before, or at that moment – say if the meeting was on Sunday night, then it seems to me, as I recall it, that – and the record of course would verify one way or the other – that Truman released the Harrison Report, saying he hadn’t heard from Eisenhower.
Eisenhower of course promptly and shortly thereafter, after the report was revealed, there was some talk about he said he hadn’t gotten the report. But it was all there. Eisenhower subsequently made a report, made a statement denying that there was anything wrong, inviting people to come. And Chaplain Klausner is a witness to the fact that Eisenhower then, probably for the first time, made a tour of displaced persons camps, and all very cheerfully done and Eisenhower with his over-powering personality, et cetera.
What Patton had done, when he was told to move Jews – I couldn’t put this in my report that I subsequently made. And I’ll tell you about that because it’s a great reflection, it seems to me, on Jews themselves – not because I was right or wrong, but because of what happened. What Patton had done, when he was ordered to make room – pardon me – for displaced Jews, and get them out of concentration camps where some of them still were. The only differences were the fires went out of the furnaces and there were no guns, and there were no dogs to tear them apart, and no gas chambers working. But what Patton also did, which was…it’s almost important to keep repeating this because to interpret how those Jews must have felt, they woke up one day to find out they were free. But the guards were in American uniforms; the same Nazis who had guarded them before in German uniforms had American uniforms without the eagle on the buttons. They had plain buttons instead of brass buttons. And how these Jews must have felt can only be left to conjecture – same people! Only in Patton’s area, so far as we knew.
What Patton did more than that, though, was to – when he was ordered to move Germans out to make room for Jews – he – and to move soldiers out to make room for Jews – he chose to do this in the middle of the night. Two o’clock in the morning, one o’clock in the morning, wake them up and say, “You’ve got to move; you’ve got to give up these beautiful apartments,” or whatever. The answer to “why” was always, “We’ve got to move for those damn Jews.”
Now I happened, myself, to witness one of those movings, and I happened to remember – I don’t know where he is, who he is, but it was a Captain McBride. This happened in 1945, and we’re talking now in 1980; and I still see and I still remember Captain McBride. Even though at my advanced age many of my memories are beginning to – the names begin to fade out, you know, into some vast area out there, conglomerate of names and people. But Captain McBride stood there as the soldiers came out with their packs on their backs, those duffel bags, and grumbling to beat all at one o’clock in the morning, says, “What do you expect? We’ve got to make room for these damn Jews.” Well, how many soldiers were infected with antisemitism as a result of this? And whether, what this resulted in an attitude if it was multiplied in the treatment of Jews throughout the D.P. camps, the whole 275,000 of them. It was really something.
Let me go back now and…I’ve rambled, oh, I got over to Germany. On the way over to Germany, on the Queen Elizabeth, I met I.F. Stone, Izzy Stone, who at that time was one of the outstanding writers for PM, which was a daily paper, which Marshall Field had put together as a great liberal newspaper. And some of the very, very big names in American journalism were writers for that. It was a great magazine; I read it religiously and became, probably, one of its original subscribers. Izzy Stone lived in Washington and he was a left-winger, but at that time, while – he was a left, left-winger – I mean, no question about it. But so was PM, left wing, but PM wasn’t really left wing or Communist; it was liberal, and very much pro-British. And Izzy Stone led the field of the pro-Britishers. And I’ll never forget, as long as I live, as we sat there on the deck of the Queen Mary for six and a half days, the beautiful crossing – the weather wasn’t bad even one day – that Stone was reading the Bible. He’s an agnostic; I don’t know if he’s an atheist, but he’s certainly an agnostic, acknowledged agnostic. He was reading the Old Testament. So I said, “Izzy, what are you reading the Old Testament for? You don’t care anything about this.” He told me he was going to London – to Palestine – going to the D.P. camps, and then he was going to Palestine through the underground. It’s very interesting. And he asked me, I’ll never forget this, if I would…(BACKGROUND NOISE)
GROBMAN: Wait a second.
FLEISHMAN: Subsequently, we lost track of Stone in London. The only importance of Stone is, of course, that he’s become very anti-Israel in –
GROBMAN: He asked you a question.
FLEISHMAN: He asked me a question, he really didn’t – he pleaded with us to be, to understand about the British.
GROBMAN: Oh yes; I see….
FLEISHMAN: Oh, can I borrow this? This is the book I wanted to ask for…looking for the book. He told me he was going to write a book, that he was going to go through the underground. Anyhow, when I came back – I’m skipping around, which we’ll get that later to hold together – came back, we came back on the same, at the same time that Rabbi Leo Baeck did. And the report we made – and I’ll get back to this – let me finish with I.F. Stone. The report we made was made at the Jewish Community Center of Washington D.C. And I recall there was an overflow crowd. I made a report and Leo Baeck made a report; of course the overflow crowd came for Leo Baeck. But I made a report. This was the first report, public report we made for the American Jewish Conference. But there in the front row was Izzy Stone and his wife. After the meeting was over we went back and had a little reception and Izzy – I found him to be a – probably as anti-British as anybody could be, as a result of his going through the underground to Palestine. I’m anxious to read his book and see if this is reflected in it. So much for Izzy Stone.
Anyhow, when we got to London, we found that they were not cleared to go into the American Zone, believe it or not. We subsequently found out that Eisenhower was still doing the cleaning up process, and I think that Rabbi Klausner of the JDC would verify that too, because they weren’t going to let us in. And the Supreme Commander had the only authority and (BACKGROUND NOISE) Okay, so we stayed in London, and then in Paris. And it was almost incredible. We attended, we attended briefings with the JDC and found out what they were doing, and got some background. But as I recall, it was a matter of possibly three weeks before we finally got permission to go into Germany, the American Zone of Germany. We never did get permission to go into the British Zone of Germany.
And when we got in the American Zone of Germany we went to General Clay’s headquarters and Clay was in charge, and I think Bedell Smith had left. And General Clay we found to be a very fine – there were three of us. I should – there’s more to it than this. We met Hans Lamm and Sarr and I, and there we met up with, and I forget whether this happened in London or in Paris, but we met up with two representatives of the American Jewish Committee. One was a lawyer who’s now dead, and the other one was a French man, a French member of the American Jewish Committee. This is important, and we met with two members of the Jewish Labor Committee.
GROBMAN: Do you remember their names?
FLEISHMAN: One was Paul Goldman, who is now dead, and the other one was an executive director of the needle trades union; his name slips my mind at the moment. And I thought the guy’s name of the Frenchman was Gottshaw, but I read someplace there was a different name of the guy who accompanied the lawyer, and the lawyer’s name will occur to me now – Grey, Herman Grey.
Now the reason I make this statement now is that it indicated that despite the problems, the tragedy of the Jews in the D.P. camps, in the concentration camps, Jews could not get together on anything that was of this importance. So what we had presented to the American Army and State Department was a group of Jews who couldn’t agree. You remember the American Jewish Conference did not include the Jewish Labor Committee. They decided to get out if they were ever in, and the American Jewish Committee got out if they were in. The American Jewish Committee at that time I think got out because of the pro-Zionist proclivities of the American Jewish Conference, and that’s the only reason. On the other hand, the Jewish Labor Committee were considered, had a lot of leftist labor leaders who were very Bundist, who were very, definitely anti-Zionist. And the strange thing we found with the, uh, Jewish Labor Committee thing was that Paul Goldman, the lawyer, labor lawyer who represented the Labor Committee, was very much pro-Zionism, pro-Zionist. And the other guy was so actively anti-Zionist, it was almost beyond belief that he was going over there.
But, in any case, we found something of the greatest interest. But let me…I guess go on and see if I can put this together a little bit better. We met with Clay and then with Simon Rifkin. Rifkin was delighted that we – you know the story of Simon Rifkin; I don’t have to go into any of that.
GROBMAN: Well, it might be useful for the tape.
FLEISHMAN: Well, Simon Rifkin was a judge, a federal judge, very highly placed in Jewish circles, and in legal circles, very highly regarded. Judah Naditch had become Eisenhower’s Jewish advisor and Judah Naditch mentions our coming there, but in some typical style he gave credit to the American Jewish Congress instead of the American Jewish Conference. It seemed to me that that’s a bit of editorial checking that ought to have been done because the Conference was not the Congress; the Congress was a member of the Conference. But he mentions that we came there as representatives of the American Jewish Congress and he sort of dismisses it because he too was taken out of circulation when Judge Rifkin was appointed because – several reasons, I think. One is because Judah Naditch was a chaplain in the army and subject to army regulations. And unlike Rabbi Klausner, who also was in the army as a captain, Klausner couldn’t care less about anything and was always on the verge of court martial. But Naditch was much more of an institutional man, an establishment man, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just that you don’t take risks. And not everybody would have done what Klausner did. But, in any case –
GROBMAN: Was this known about Naditch?
FLEISHMAN: Uh, you mean about that he was an establishment man? No, that’s my analysis of it. He was – he had, he had – there were certain rules and regulations which – he may deny it, but this was the general reputation. He went by a book. He did everything he could, don’t misunderstand. By the way, the JDC had to go by the book, although they did things under the table; they had to go by the book ostensibly, otherwise they’d kick them out. There’s a big difference. A lay person can do things and all you can do is say, “You shouldn’t do that; go home.” Another guy, of course this was a problem I had, but I didn’t – since I was going to be discharged when I got home – I didn’t feel I had that problem of wearing a major’s badge. By the way, I found that being in uniform was a big help. What was the biggest help was we had Pentagon headquarters, army, air force, insignia, and with that insignia it didn’t make a difference what my rank was, I had access to anything and everything. And it made the going a lot easier, believe me. I mean, coming from the Pentagon, from the headquarters, is a – I forget – it’s a kind of a star that you wear, whatever it is.
But Naditch then faded out of the picture and we spoke with Rifkin. Rifkin had stars in his eyes, what they were doing, what – in the D.P. camps – what O.R.T. was…
Remember now, all the damage that had been done, not all, most of the damage which had been done by the bad quarters and by the actual starvation, and all of the things which you have researched and which have been written about, and I’ve reported them in my report. I don’t think I should put my report – you’ve put the report together. You have my reports. But most of that had been taken care of.
The people were eating; you had to stand in line for three hours to eat, and by that time it was lunchtime. This was a thing I noticed. They start at six o’clock for breakfast, and by the time the last person is in line for breakfast, they’re preparing for lunch. And the guy who was first in line for breakfast then gets in the new line for lunch. And this whole thing goes on and it was rather pitiful. We tried to eat with the people, get a feel for the people. We even tried to stay with the people which was rejected by the way. They wouldn’t let us stay with them. And I must say that we vomited, I did, for a week, because eating with the people was no great pleasure. And I have commented on the food. And I described that in great detail, I think, in one of my reports, which you have, that I made to the American Jewish Conference.
We also had a problem. We had agreed that by going there – you know about this, I think – we also would clear everything with U.N.R.R.A., and with the State Department, and with the army, and the whole business. And as soon as we saw what was going on, I couldn’t wait to get home so I wouldn’t be subjected to all of these things. As we began to travel together, we began to notice certain things. For example, Zalman Grinberg, whom we met in…
FLEISHMAN: No…yes, in Munich, the Central Committee for Liberated Jews. It was Saint Ottilien. I was seeing those little kids. Zalman Grinberg was there and I’ll never forget, instead of the badge, which the Germans made them wear, they had jackets, all the members of the Central Committee. And I’ll never forget my feeling, Central Committee for Liberated Jews in Bavaria, what a beautiful sound it had with a symphony orchestra playing in Landsberg, the whole thing got incredible. But I just sat there with my mouth open listening to these people. And the first thing that happens is that Herman Grey begins to protest the sending of the, how many thousand kids there were, sending them, holding the kids. Now, there are documents on that, and you know about it, don’t you? Did you write about that in your book?
FLEISHMAN: Holding the kids in hostage. There were two different views about the children. One was that held by the Central Committee of Liberated Jews and others, and I don’t know whether it was JDC, I don’t think had any opposition on it. And the other was the Orthodox – the Agudas HaRabbones (?), the Orthodox rabbis, whoever they were at the time, that insisted that these kids be sent to France where they would be put into yeshivas and various places and raised as Orthodox Jews. But someplace in my memoirs or in my file I’ve got the original memorandum in which the Central Committee repudiated the whole idea and said, “Never. Not one child will go.” Now, as we sat there in Munich with Zalman Grinberg and his Council, Herman Grey spoke up and said, “It’s not humanitarian; it’s terrible what you’re doing.” And Zalman Grinberg – by the way, you never did find him for me, did you?
FLEISHMAN: You told me you were going to write to him and…
GROBMAN: He wrote to you.
FLEISHMAN: I never got a letter from him, never heard from him, not one word.
GROBMAN: I have his number.
FLEISHMAN: Okay. Is he in New York?
FLEISHMAN: All right, well, anyhow, remind me – or before you leave, please give it to me. Anyhow, I never heard from him – unless you gave me a different address…Zalman Grinberg, with his eyes flashing, and the story of Saint Ottilien I think you covered. Didn’t you cover that story?
FLEISHMAN: With his eyes flashing said, in Yiddis,” “If you came to give us charity, you can go home! If,” he said, “you came to help us get off of the bloody soil of Germany, then we’ll take your tzedakkah because God knows we need it.” And I thought that was a beautiful phrase. But this guy, Herman Grey, and his colleague – and it took me many years before I could ever join the American Jewish Committee, and now I’ve got the humanitarian award from the American Jewish Committee, it took me many years before I could ever forgive the Committee. And it was unfair because it wasn’t the American Jewish Committee, it was Herman Grey who thought he was reflecting – well anyhow he reflected his own views.
The reason this is important is wherever we went, they sought out flaws. In the Joint Distribution Committee, Joint – J.D.C.’s reports, which I’ll not go into because they’re all matters of record, they took a vote. They had elections – 5000 to 150. 5000 to go to Palestine, 150 scattered wherever they had friends – mostly to America, because they had relatives here, and so on. That was also pitiful because as we went through the D.P. camps, I couldn’t believe what was happening. I wrote about this, but only very briefly; then I think maybe you wrote about it in your dissertation. Hundreds of letters people gave us, “Why are you giving us letters? We’ll mail them.” “Well, you have to smuggle them out.” And to this day, to understand why freed Jews from the concentration – nobody knows the answer. Did you ever find an answer? They would not tell us why they weren’t allowed to write letters.
GROBMAN: The American military wouldn’t let them.
FLEISHMAN: I know, but that’s not an answer. Why wouldn’t the American military let them? It’s incredible. People who want to send letters to relatives to try to find them, could not send letters to America. We smuggled out thousands; literally, our pockets were bulging, and we had bags full of letters because nobody was – that’s where the headquarters of the army and the air force, they didn’t bother me. Even a general wouldn’t bother me because he didn’t know what kind of report I would make up there at headquarters. And that’s the kind of thing that I meant when I said it was very helpful.
But the letters themselves were pitiful. The envelopes read “Abe Goldberg, Brooklyn, New York.” And I’ll tell you that after a couple, just a couple, and I learned right away that the thing to do is not to argue with any of these people because you destroy their hope. It makes me sick even thinking about it. I used to say, “But who is Abe Goldberg? There must be a thousand, ten thousand Abe Goldbergs in New York.” They say, in Yiddish you’ll find him; you’ll find him. Just take this to New York and mail it.” We stopped talking to them about it because when they give us a letter, this was their only link to Abe Cohen, Abe Goldberg, Sam Goldstein; it was incredible. In fact, very few of them had the addresses on them, but we took them. There was nothing we could do with them except file them someplace in Munich or give them to the J.D.C. But we took them, and the look in their eyes as we took them was something sensational, that now they will hear. I don’t suppose they ever heard.
Rifkin was probably as enlightened a man as we found. And he, in fact…(BACKGROUND NOISE) And we had a great rapport with him. We talked back and forth from where we were going. We started in Salzheim (?), and in Salzheim, of course, we encountered the first wedding of the D.P.s in Germany. And I’m going to Israel – this is Thursday, I’m going to Israel Saturday night. And I hope by Sunday night to be able to talk to Michael Drori, who was then Michael Finger – who he and his wife got married and there was five thousand people came to the wedding. And a Rabbi Rosenberg, who is now dead…
GROBMAN: Alexander Rosenberg.
FLEISHMAN: Yes. You knew him? Did you meet him?
GROBMAN: No, he died before…
FLEISHMAN: He died – well, he performed the ceremony. I’d never been at a wedding of five thousand people. I don’t think you have either. And it was really something.
And I think maybe I’ll just add here what Michael Finger said when the next day I said to him, “What kind of business is this?” And he didn’t speak any English. “What kind of business is this?” I said, “You got married. What kind of future have you got? I mean it’s nobody – you’re not going to leave this – nobody knew where they were going. I mean, you’re not going to leave the soil of Germany. What are you getting married for? What are you going to do?” So he said, “________Eretz Yisroel.” So I said, “What do you mean? You’re going to Israel? There’s no such thing as Eretz Yisroel.” And he said, “Maybe not for you, but for me there is, _____________b’Eretz Yisroel.” So I said, “Okay, do me a favor. I don’t think you’re going to make it,” because of Cyprus, the Exodus, the whole business. I said, “Do me a favor. Here, you write. You can’t carry any papers with you; write to me care of the Jewish War Veterans, New York City.” He knew who I was because I was the fore trotter; I was the head of the group from the American Jewish Conference. My God, they made over us like heroes, mostly because we stayed with them for greater lengths of time than anybody else, you see, we had – oh, are you going to change it?
Tape 1 - Side 2
GROBMAN: (BACKGROUND DISCUSSION) By the way, I don’t want to interrupt you, but I think it’s important for the record that when Zalman Grinberg, who was Chairman of the Central Committee for Liberated Jews of Bavaria, came to the United States in 1946 to speak at the American Jewish Conference, he mentioned two people. He thanked the Conference for sending over Alfred Fleischman, by name, and he thanked the Conference for the help of Abraham Klausner.
FLEISCHMAN: Yes, I remember that. And I was sitting on the platform in Cleveland, I think it was, where he made that speech, and I – just looking at him; I saw him in the Black Forest and I saw him in Munich and I saw him all over the place. And this really…he could not have been a normal person even at that time. Who could survive this sort of thing? And the story of Saint Ottilien, which I’m sure you covered someplace, is one that is unbelievable. But he’s…all right, where I left off…I don’t think Zalman Grinberg will ever forget the experience he had with the American Jewish Committee. Or maybe I should say with Herman Grey, and whoever it was who was associating with this other guy from the needle trades union, because this was a very serious problem as they got the notion that they were working at cross purposes with us. And they were.
Let me skip now –
GROBMAN: Well, can you go into that?
FLEISCHMAN: Can I?
GROBMAN: I think that’s important.
FLEISCHMAN: Well that’s what I’m going to do.
FLEISCHMAN: I’m going to skip to how. When we completed several months and developed it, my wife, who had only her mother left in the whole world, my wife’s mother dropped dead, and I got this call from the United States to come home, so I began to make plans to get home. So I never stayed for the full three months. But Herman – but Samuel Sarr and Hans Lamm did. They went on to Austria and I did not go to Austria.
We met in Paris. We’d been through the D.P. camps of Germany –
GROBMAN: From November, December…
FLEISCHMAN: Probably November. (OVERTALK) November, and it was in December, I think, that we met to draw up a report. And since I was supposed to be a writer, I drew up the report; we went over it item by item. And you’ve got copies of the report; you can include it with this tape. Uh, we got to a part – what to do with these people? And so I wrote that…the overwhelming majority want to go to Palestine. Exact words, “The overwhelming majority want to go to Palestine. Others wish to go to America and other parts of the world, mostly because they have relatives there.”
I got to that part and Herman Grey and his colleagues said, “We can’t agree to that.” After two months of what we saw, and the J.D.C. had made a, a – held an election, took a vote in each one: Landsberg, Feldafing, Ferenwald (?), Salzheim (?), even Buchenwald, Dachau, you name it; and the vote was almost the same, 3000 to 150, 5000 to 200, to go to Palestine. It was incredible! So I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had not been a student of general semantics at that time or I would have known what was happening here. They said, “Well, we don’t agree that an overwhelming majority want to go to Palestine.” So I said, “Okay,” because I’m dealing with normal men – this is a great labor lawyer, he teaches – a law professor at New York University Law School. Could he have an ulterior purpose? Could he not see what everybody else saw? And he said, “We don’t agree that an overwhelming majority want to go to Palestine.” So I said, “Well, okay, maybe the use of the word ‘overwhelming…’” But I said – I was sitting in the officers club in Paris; we sat there hours. I mean, it was incredible.
And so I said, “Okay, maybe the word ‘overwhelming’ doesn’t do it.” I said, “Should we say ‘majority?’” You know, an “overwhelming majority” won’t do, so I say, “A majority?” I said, “I don’t know what 5000 to 100 is if it isn’t overwhelming, but I’m not going to argue with you about the word. So, a majority?” They would not agree even to the majority one to go in. And this I almost vomited at, so I told them to go to hell and Sarr, Lamm, and I went outside and wrote our own report.
Now, I went to the long-distance telephone and I called Simon Rifkin in Munich – no, in Salzheim, in Frankfurt; I’m sorry, it was Frankfurt. Salzheim and Frankfurt are both antiguous; they’re both next to each other. So I called him. Well, I was telling you about my friend that got married; let me go back to that, but first finish with this, okay. God, this is rambling all over.
Uh, so I called Rifkin and told him what had happened. I read him our report; it was very strong. He really let me have it. I told him we couldn’t sign it, all of us, just the American Jewish Conference. I couldn’t believe my ears, except that he was right. He denounced us in every way. Rifkin, he said it would have been better if we’d all stayed home! To think that six American Jews – no, three, two and two; three, five, seven American Jews should come and see for two months and not agree on what they saw. “This is incredible,” he says, “better you should have stayed home!” And I said, “Judge, I’m doing the best I can. I could never – would you want me to say that the majority didn’t want to go?” He didn’t say anything about that because obviously he was a friend of – I say obviously – he must have been a friend of Herman Grey’s and didn’t want to get in an argument with me about Herman Grey. But he certainly agreed that an overwhelming majority wanted to go to Palestine. And I went in like a wet dog at midnight to say to Samuel Sarr and Hans Lamm that we’re – that this is our report and we’re going to make it. I’m going home; I’m going to take the next flight out of here.
We all had to use priorities at that time, again, that’s what – we had to wait a month at that time because they were sending soldiers home in large numbers, great pressures to bring them home, the election, the whole business. And the people wanted their kids back home. There was no longer a war and we had how many billion troops over there; I don’t know, 100,000.
So I got a priority to come home and I take this report with me. I do two things. I filed the report with U.N.R.R.A. I filed the report – I sent it to them by mail, to Simon Rifkin; and I carried a report home. When I get off the airplane – I’ll go back to the D.P. camp – when I get off the airplane in New York, I’m met by Al – Rosenthal uh, his name slips my mind; he was then a Washington Post correspondent. Alvin Rosenthal (?), who became an NBC correspondent later, and I had the great pleasure – he may not admit this – but instilling in him the notion he ought to go and see for himself what was going on. And the New York Times covered, rival of PM, did a full page on it. Can you get a copy?
FLEISCHMAN: The New York Times covered it, PM covered it, the Washington – New York Post covered it, and he was with the New York Post; I’m pretty sure. And he took me aside and he said, “I’ve got to go over there myself; I’ve got to go over there myself and see it.”
But – so, we made this report, and before I got; it was, I got off the airplane. I was met by somebody; I don’t remember who. It may have been Kennon, whom now –
GROBMAN: Cy Kennon?
FLEISCHMAN: Cy Kennon, yeah. And Kennon met me, I think it was Kennon. He said, “Give me that report; we’ve got to change it.” U.N.R.R.A. didn’t want certain things in it and neither did Simon Rifkin. The reason they didn’t want it in there was fairly obvious; it was very strong, and they were taking steps to correct them. It would aggravate the situation if any criticism – let us say of Patton or somebody else – were made, which didn’t help at all, but could have aroused extreme passions in people. And you have to understand, coming from those D.P. camps and going to Paris to write a report and with all this fresh that you don’t exactly sit back and figure. Today I would say, “Politically, should I – what would we be doing?” They said we’d be doing more damage than good. I would – I remember distinctly denouncing the whole Jewish community of the world for not doing something for these people. And the J.D.C. didn’t like it, and they were right. I remember Schwartz, who also is now dead –
FLEISCHMAN: Joe Schwartz, and Haber was there; he came after him I think.
FLEISCHMAN: But Joe Schwartz, who pleaded with us to understand what the Joint was doing. Only now, and then years later, do I realize what the Joint did. And by the way, I mean, the thing that I – I took pictures of people sitting outside of O.R.T. factories – first let me finish with this, will you…it’s incredible. I’ll make a note because for me, O.R.T. did one of the biggest jobs – J.D.C., unbelievable job that they did.
So the first thing is, change the report. Don’t give it out to anybody. So I did, and we made the report much milder and the one that you have is the mild report. I wish I could have found the one that I did not issue, but nevertheless, it’s mostly there, except for the denunciation. So we make the report, and the next thing, they want me to go around and make speeches all over and talk about what happened, and the United Jewish Appeal…I never came home, for six months! Never got home. Four years in the army and six months traveling around for the U.J.A. and the American Jewish Conference, but this thing in Washington was the biggest thing. And I was on the West Coast with Eddie Cantor for six days, and we made three speeches a day. And of course he was a phenomenal person; the amount of money he was able to raise is almost – I love that man – he’s almost beyond belief, where his heart was.
Now I come back to New York, and I’m in New York for while, and the American Jewish Committee is having its annual meeting. I get a call from the guy – I forget which one it was – not the President, Gold is the President; the Executive Vice President, Schlossen, I think had become, John Schlossen had become the Executive Vice President of the American Jewish Committee. And I pretty well sounded off what my feelings were about Herman Grey. And I didn’t even talk to Herman Grey. Imagine what we’d been through, sitting there, with almost the blood running from these people. And not a single friendly word except that it was inhumane to keep the kids over there, not understanding that they wanted the kids; that’s all they had left, you know. And not to let people get rescued, but to go to Palestine, whatever the whole political business was, much of which you had in your documents, so no need to go into that because that’s part of what you studied.
Schlossen – I’m sure it was Schlossen, but maybe it wasn’t – but he called me; it may have been a guy who’s…it slips my mind now. (OVERTALK) “Will I come to the annual meeting,” which was being held, I think, at the – what’s the big hotel…Waldorf Astoria. So I said, “Come and hear Herman Grey’s report?” This is, by the way, a month later, at least a month, maybe a month and a half after I got home, because Herman Grey had to come home. I said, “I wouldn’t go to hear that son of a bitch’s report for anything.” Remember that we had sat there all night long. And he wouldn’t agree. “Please come. It’s not nice that Jews should be fighting.” So I said, “I’ll come.”
Secretary of War Patterson was their big speaker. The American Jewish Committee can trot out big names. I came and I sat in the back. As Herman Grey walked in – still in uniform – as Herman Grey walked in, he said hello and I turned my back on him. I mean, it was one of those things, you know, there’s only two or three people in my whole life that I turned my back on; he was one of them.
And he came up to the platform, and in the course of the meeting Herman Grey made a report. And I couldn’t believe, sitting in the last row of this huge ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria, Herman Grey’s report to the American Jewish Committee, “And what we found was that the overwhelming majority of the displaced Jews wish to go to Palestine.” It was absolutely incredible. There had been no need for all of this, but how he changed and where he changed, I’ll never know, because he died some – several years after that, and I never spoke to him.
Back to the wedding of my – of Michael Finger. So he said he’s going through the underground to Palestine. I said, “If you get there, write me care of the Jewish War Veterans. You can remember that.” He can remember that. Anyhow, about every six months for – this was 1945, going into ’46 and then ’47, about every three months I got a letter, smuggled out by an American soldier who mailed it from New York. It was obvious that, and he’d wrote to me in Hebrew – in Yiddish, I forget. And we used to get, uh, David Reis, who was then head of the Associated Hebrew Schools to – maybe it was in Hebrew; he was beginning to write, this guy was. But anyhow, David Reis interpreted the letters for me and my father tried to – but I couldn’t understand my father’s interpretation – but Reis interpreted it into English, and I get these letters saying they made it through the underground.
Then another one comes three months later, “And my wife is pregnant.” I said, “Oh my God, this is crazy. You know, you guys are going to have families,” and letters about he can’t tell me where he’s settled because somebody will intercept the letter and he’s an illegal alien, and the whole business, you know. But they made it. Then comes 1947 and I get this –
GROBMAN: Was it 1948?
FLEISCHMAN: ’48, “All hail the Jewish State.” And I’ll never forget; I get this letter and I quickly rush this to Dr. Reis who develops that and tells me for the first time he’s in Holon, which at that time was a suburb of Tel Aviv with 10,000 people, a Histradrut village, maybe less than 10,000 people. And my notion of a village, you know, was a European shtetl at the time. And then we began to write back and forth. He gave birth to the first child, his wife did, and that child was named Nitza. He changed his name to Drori, which means freedom. And he announced to me that I was the foster – the, the, what do you call it – the foster father? That’s not the right word.
FLEISCHMAN: Godfather of that child. 1955 I take my first trip to Israel and there is Michael Finger and his wife and the five, six year old daughter. And, I mean, you know, and she walk out on the tarmac. There was no hysteria about at that time, security, the way it is now. And she’s carrying gladiolas and I – I just broke down completely, you know. And so I’ve been going back to Israel since that time.
But Michael and his wife became – I wish I’d brought the letter I got yesterday; I took it home last night…became the essence of what Israel is all about. Not only for me but for what anybody else that wants to listen – how to become that. Michael settled in Holon, he studied to be a teacher. He became a teacher in Holon schools. He then became principal of – he now – and he got a bachelor’s degree in education. He has a master’s degree in education. The letter I got yesterday, he is preparing to write his thesis for his doctor of philosophy in education. He is head of the biggest school in Holon, 800 children. I take my people to visit them every year. The kids know somebody from America’s coming; it’s on the side streets so tourists don’t go there. The most love affair, the greatest love affair we’ve ever seen.
His daughter Nitza is in New York, and she’s the Executive Head of the American Friends of Tel Aviv University. And the one son, the youngest son is now 18 years old – Nitza’s got to be close to 30, maybe 29, 30 – the youngest son is 18 years old and is now a paratrooper, which breaks the heart of the father. The kid wanted to be a paratrooper. And the other son was – spent time during all the wars, both wars, and he now is the manager of a packing plant for oranges, and he’s going to school, doing research. The reason I tell you this is because these are dead people – should be dead. You know, I go there – everybody’s got the arm…the tattoo on the arm, and the kid is now studying, taking a special course to study – first, he’s already taken a course in business management. And now he’s taking a course in how to grow oranges on sandy soil. And he’s doing research in orange growing. These are the three children of my foster family, of my…anyhow. And this is what I’m saying is the direct link that I have from that situation.
And frequently, when I come to visit with them in Holon, in the beautiful apartment they have, they bring other people who were with them in the D.P. camps. One of the guys in the D.P. camp who appears in one of my pictures that I took, and this – Michael Finger was one of the leaders in the camp and I have a picture with him, “There is no freedom in the world” – you’ve seen those pictures…
GROBMAN: Uh huh.
FLEISCHMAN: “…except Jewish freedom.” One of the guys sees, that I show the pictures to, was Wolf, what’s his name, uh…
FLEISCHMAN: Leo. Leo’s been on your tapes, I think. Leo Wolf, he says, “My God, that’s me.” So I lent Leo the pictures so he could make copies of the pictures and so on. So Leo Wolf was there in the D.P. camps.
Some of the things that I recall, for example, was going to Landsberg, Germany. Herman Grey wouldn’t go, and I forget, Samuel Sarr was teaching, and in Landsberg they were having a concert. The Central Committee of Liberated Jews in Bavaria Symphony Orchestra, was beyond belief; this can’t happen. I’m sitting with those people, vomiting every morning and every night. They’ve got an orchestra? So I get in the staff car; again, you see the American influence of the Pentagon. All I needed to do was commandeer a car. Give me a sergeant and we’d go – maybe, I don’t know how many miles from Munich Landsberg is, but we go. And I go to the concert, and of course this was a big thing. I did not know that the next day was declared Yom Kippur, the fast day, because they announced the day that day.
GROBMAN: The day before?
FLEISCHMAN: The day of the concert when Truman’s request for 150,000 Jews to go to Palestine –
FLEISCHMAN: 100,000 – I’m sorry – had been rejected by Bevin. And when did we find this out? Because we had been traveling most of the day, found this out at the symphony itself. What was the symphony? It was at Landsbergschtat Theatre, right across the street was the jail from which Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. (UNCLEAR) It was incredible. And that day when we got there early there was a march of 5000 people, 5000 Jews, who were in the D.P. camps in Landsberg, with signs protesting and declaring a fast day. People who didn’t get enough to eat were going to fast. I thought that was crazy. But what I didn’t know was that I was scheduled – circulars, which had been handed out by the thousands because by this time O.R.T. and the J.D.C., and mostly the J.D.C. I guess had done the confiscating. They’d gotten printing presses and then newspapers that were published all over, and Y.I.V.O. has these papers – I’m pretty sure I wrote to them and offered them copies of the papers which I had brought back. But they said they had all the papers, so I threw mine away, and I think I might have saved one or two or three. But, in any case, they had newspapers, some published in Yiddish, uh, what do you call it again…you spell out ich – I C H, and you’ve got to be able to read I C H, ich gay, G A Y, you know.
GROBMAN: In Latin letters.
FLEISCHMAN: In Latin letters – well in English letters. (OVERTALK) But anyhow, how the people read it, I don’t know. But everybody had a printing press and everybody had a newspaper – almost everybody. And some were in English, and some were in Yiddish, and some were I guess in Hebrew, but not many were in Hebrew because Hebrew was not a speaking language at that time.
GROBMAN: The Zionists did have a Hebrew…
FLEISCHMAN: Did they?
FLEISCHMAN: Okay. So…and they also printed a program. There were only five people who were there who were not from the D.P. camp. And they printed the program in English for it. Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, it was incredible.
GROBMAN: You don’t have a copy of that, do you?
FLEISCHMAN: I’ll find it. They’ll know where you’ll be and I’ll make you a copy. I’ll find it. I’ve got it. My secretary…I brought back a dozen; I couldn’t believe it. And here, this orchestra sits there on the platform. It’s cold as hell. And if you’ve ever heard the expression, “Lay – sitting on the,” I mean, “Hanging from the rafters,” in the German schtat theatre of Landsberg there are huge rafters. And kids and people had climbed up – to the room –climbed on the rafters and lay, actually lay on the rafters and this – this precarious position, and cold as hell. The violinist played with fingers – but that happened in Paris too when I went to a symphony concert there – but they played with gloves, but with the fingers cut out. And I’ll never forget, the piano didn’t have any legs, but they were on ammunition cases; the three legs, you know. And they sat mostly on ammunition cases and whatever stands they had; I don’t remember the music stands. But I remember saying, “Where did they get the instruments?” And they said, “We lifted them from the Germans.”
They had a full orchestra; it was conducted by a guy named Hofmachler. Why do I remember that? That night coming back – I did not stay for what I did not know was this huge mass meeting of 5,000 people in the sports stadium, until I got back. And I was the principal speaker – it said, “ Hear Major Fleischman from the American Jewish Conference.” (LAUGHTER) I didn’t know it. Nobody told me; they thought I knew. I don’t know. Anyhow, I damn near died when I got back. When I got back – it was either Hanukkah or close to Hanukkah, that time of the year – and Sadie Cynder, I’ll never forget her because I wrote her a letter –
GROBMAN: From the J.D.C.
FLEISCHMAN: J.D.C., and Sadie had gotten – and she’s dead too, by the way. The J.D.C. just told me she was dead, but they sent the letter on to her, some relatives of hers from whom I heard. It’s kind of nostalgia, you know, I just, in the last few months I sent these letters, because I’m finding things as I’m going through my files. I’m finding things; Sadie sent this picture, for example. And in Salzheim, right before the wedding of Michael Finger – Michael Drori. Somebody got – Sadie got a salami from home. Oy vey, a salami, after these months, you know, no Jewish cooking.
And by the way, a story about Samuel Sarr and how he finagled. Did I ever tell you about it? I mean, he would – wherever we went he would tell the military that he only ate kosher food and that he would – we ate mostly in military establishments, you see, in officers’ clubs and what not, and he adhered very strictly to the – to the kosher laws. He ate only kosher food, and he couldn’t – he would not eat the eggs; powdered eggs is what we had. Do you know what they did? Every place we went they lifted eggs from the Germans. I mean, they actually – the mess sergeant had such respect for this guy. If only I could translate this to some of our young Jews who are embarrassed because they think being kosher is some kind of disgrace. You know, the goyim will think less of them; they think more of them. Every place we went mess sergeants, and if they were black, they were even better, they confiscated food for him – fresh vegetables instead of canned vegetables because without the kosher label he wouldn’t eat it. It was incredible. But he made it throughout that whole – he lost some weight – but he made it throughout this period. He managed to stick with strictly kosher all the way through. But where was I – oh, Hofmachler and the symphony orchestra.
On the way back, it’s not a problem of anything about this – my – I fell asleep in the back of the car. And my sergeant got arrested for speeding, and it went through a whole business of where I got into it with guys – and beside the point, the whole thing. But my – all the time, my symbol of Headquarters of Army-Air Force rescued me from anything. It’s just like now when I go to Israel. I don’t speak much Hebrew – I’m always going to take Hebrew. And I did take a course under Dr. – junior college, what’s his name…Fisch. Yeah, but I found that was worse than anything because when I start talking my Hebrew, you see, they all start speaking Hebrew so fast. “Hey, wait a minute, speak English. It’s better.” But I read Hebrew, of course. And of course I can – carry a little book with you and say but, “Ani lo medaber ivreet. Ani American.” It got me through, across the street, and these little police girls come hollering. “Ani lo medaber ivreet. Ani American.” Well, you do something – you’re on the wrong side of the street, whatever it is, “Ani lo medaber ivreet. Ani American.” (LAUGHTER BY GROBMAN) And they holler, but it’s no problem. You learn certain things.
In any case, now I’m finished with – oh yes, Hofmachler; I’m sorry. This is – I don’t think I ever told you this story, did I? So we’re sitting there, we’re eating a piece of salami in the J.D.C. house in Munich. Everybody got one slice, you know. And the soldier, lieutenant – I forget his name, but it was certainly not Hofmachler or I would have remembered it – and he plays the cello, and we had quite an evening celebrating Hanukkah.
And we get through, I tell them about this – we’re sitting around talking – I tell them about this unbelievable group that played a symphony, and played Tchaikovsky. I showed them the placard. This lieutenant says to me, “You know, I’ve got a brother who’s a musician. What was the name of the conductor?” I didn’t know that that was important; I said, “His name was Hofmachler.” He said, “My God; I’ve been trying to find him!” He’s a German Jew, and the brother was left in Germany, or in Poland, or someplace – this guy wasn’t a German Jew. He was a Russian, Polish Jew. “My God, is this the man?” He shows me a picture of a guy who didn’t look like the guy, but I said, “How can you tell? This guy spent three years in a concentration camp. But maybe it is.” My Hofmachler was bald; this Hofmachler…The next day, he was on his way to Landsberg searching, this lieutenant who played the cello, also lifted from the Germans – a musical family quite obviously.
It’s the last I heard of him, the last I heard of Hofmachler, except in 1955 I’m sitting on a Shabbas afternoon in the lobby of the King David Hotel. 1955 and I’m looking at the trio, four o’clock in the afternoon, and the violin player – “I’ve seen that guy some place before.” And the other two I didn’t know – a piano player and a, another violin player, cello player, I think it was the three of them. “Where have I seen him?” It was haunting, and he was looking at me. Now remember, I was the ________ of the Americans who came there, so everybody – I got up on stage and all this kind of thing. They knew who I was, or certainly a helluva lot of people knew who I was. And so he’s looking at me.
When he finishes he comes over and he says, in fairly good English, mostly – a little broken – he said, “We know each other. I know you from someplace.” I said, “Tell me your name.” He said, “Hofmachler.” I said, “My God, you’re not the Hofmachler who conducted the orchestra in Landsberg.” You don’t realize how far away that seemed to be; how hopeless it seemed to be. It was the same Hofmachler. His brother had found him; he may be dead by this time because he – he, with the life he lived, in the concentration camp, was not conducive to long life. And it’s the same Hofmachler; he’s playing in the Israeli Philharmonic. You know, his – here life begins to unfold again. Without Israel what would these people have been? Hofmachler could be a musician in Israel. And a doctor like Greenberg could be a doctor in Israel. If he came here he might be a bootblack (?), you know. But, in any case, these are some of the things that I recall from there.
But, what, I know Landsberg I got here, American Jewish Committee I got, Paris I got, Herman Grey I got…When we left, when we finished this tour, we all met with General Clay –
Tape 2 - Side 1
FLEISCHMAN: Several things occurred to me in passing. One is that, uh, we (TAPE STOPS) There are two things that I think need to be stressed. One was what we first thought was an apparent lack of interest on the part of Jewish organizations, and I’ve since learned not to be too critical because when you don’t have all the facts, you don’t know. Was the fact, number one, that the J.D.C. was operating with – under tremendous handicap, lack of funds, under the tight restrictions of U.N.R.R.A., under the tight restrictions of General Eisenhower’s staff people. And the fact that the American zone, the Russian zone, the French zone, uh – American, British, French, and Russian – the four zones had been divided and there was no traffic between the two, the four zones. And the traffic which existed was all underground traffic and mostly by Jews.
Dr. – Rabbi – oh, Dr.…what’s his name – Ben Gurion came to the camps as an emissary, sort of a sheliach from Palestine. And I remember the reverence with which they followed him around. My Lord, it was almost as if the Messiah had come. Wherever he walked, hundreds of people followed in his trail, like the Pied Piper of Hamlin. So I said, “Mr. Ben Gurion,” – did they call him Ben Gurion at that time?
FLIESCHMAN: Well, his name was Greenberg or something like that, wasn’t it? I don’t know. Whatever it was, anyhow, he was part of the experience. And so I asked him where he was going and he said he’s going to Bergen-Belsen. And I’ll never forget my own response, which was clearly astonishment, I said, “Bergen-Belsen? That’s in the British zone; you can’t get in. I’ve made application to get to Bergen-Belsen 10 times already and the British won’t let me in.” And Ben Gurion, a little short guy, looked at me and he smiled and he says, “You want to go? Come with me. I’ll show you how to get in.” He went. I read about it, I saw it in Stars and Stripes and in other publications. There was Ben Gurion in Bergen-Belsen. He went.
The thing that was also of great interest was that Palestinian Zionists had been sending people in from Israel. And this was a great thing, I mean, because it gave the people some hope despite the fact that they were being told here, “This one was – these were intercepted, and this is what happened and there were thousands of Jews on the island of Cyprus.” Isn’t that where they were, in the concentration camps?
GROBMAN: That was later, that was later.
FLEISCHMAN: Later was it? But, yes, that’s right, it was later, because they were attempting to get out. But the Israelis had – whatever goes for Israelis – the Jews who at that time –
FLEISCHMAN: The Palestinian Jews had sent emissaries, they sent teachers, they sent coaches, and – because one of the things which was very important – and I remember I, myself, and I wrote about this in one of my reports, as soon as I saw, they have no equipment at all. I went to my friends in the Air Force; again, remember I told you in the beginning that little insignia worked wonders? And I said, “Hey, I’ve got to have some equipment.” I got basketballs. They didn’t know what to do with basketballs. That came much later, through the American – through the United States Committee Sports for Israel. But, uh, but the basketballs and dodgeballs, and whatever we could get we got from them – we got soccer balls. That’s what was the big thing.
And I’ll never forget; I wrote about this because it’s hard to believe. The women had sewn in the O.R.T. shops; they sewed little white pants, short pants, and white tee shirts. And I don’t know where the shoes came from – speaking of shoes, I’ll get to that in a minute – where the shoes came from. But they got them and they played soccer. And I’ll never forget, I was the honored guest standing on the sidelines. I forget which camp it was, that was playing which other camp, but it was some sight because you don’t really expect this to have happened. They’re supposed to be in degradation. I remember taking off the walls a piece of paper, and I have it right here – I’ll either give it to you or I’ll…It said that, announcing that the Jews, that the spirit must live in a healthy body. Did I give you this or not? And that sports is important, and there’s going to be a meeting, and for people to get involved in sports, and that whole business with singing and with teaching.
But O.R.T. and the J.D.C. was what they labored under and how they had to – they lifted, they stole, they begged, they borrowed, they stole, and they did it, everything, in every way they could. And the problems were probably typified by when we got to – the name of the place slips my mind at the moment – Wiesbaden. And so my first call, because I’m still in the Army, in the Air Force, and my first call is in the military. I’ve got to report in, you know. And I meet the captain who’s in charge of displaced persons. He is a social worker from Springfield, Illinois, a Greek, and his eyes lit up. He was wild. He’s got damn Jews. So here I’m fighting anti semitism, and he let fly – and I said, “Before you go any further, you ought to know, Captain, I’m Jewish, and I outrank you.” He didn’t give a damn. His eyes were flashing. What were they flashing about? He came there to Wiesbaden, he was appointed. Did you write about this in your book or not, in your thesis?
FLEISCHMAN: He came there and he was given – there were maybe 3,000 Jews in that whole area. And he was going to make this the best damn camp that ever existed. And he proceeded to get for the people of Wiesbaden food, clothing, shelter, and all that happened was the word went out through the underground, “Come to Wiesbaden.” And when I got there, there were 11,000 Jews in Wiesbaden, and this man is wild! He doesn’t know where to get the food and the substance and the shelter. So I have a meeting that night with the committee of Jews who were running the show in the little shul left in Wiesbaden. And I said, “What’s the matter with you people? The guy is doing a job.” Look, whatever passed for my Yiddish, “He’s doing a job; he’s doing the best he can. He took the 3,000 Jews he’s gonna take care of. What did you guys – what did you do? Where did you get 11,000 people? He can’t feed you.” And they just smiled at me, like Rabbi Eichenstein did when – Rabbi Eichenstein at the And I said, “What’s the matter with you people? The guy is doing a job.” Look, whatever passed for my Yiddish, “He’s doing a job; he’s doing the best he can. He took the 3,000 Jews he’s gonna take care of. What did you guys – what did you do? Where did you get 11,000 people? He can’t feed you.”
And they just smiled at me, like Rabbi Eichenstein did when I said – Rabbi Eichenstein, “Rabbi, the yeshiva, it owes the government money for taxes for social security.” It was some thousands of dollars. The Federation had to lend him the money to bail him out. “How could you let this happen?” And he says, “Mr. Fleischman, if it comes time to pay the tax payer, or to sponsor – or that Jewish education should flourish, which would you take?” And I had to turn and walk away from him. I’m going to choose the taxpayer? The tax collector, I mean. Which do you choose, the tax collector or Torah learning? You know.
They just sat there and they looked at me, not the least bit upset. They understood the situation. They said, “Look, we came here; here was good. We don’t have anybody but to discover that cousin is here, our relative is here, an acquaintance is there, a landsmann is there. We send word out, ‘Come here; it’s good.’”
But this poor guy was typical of what happened right here in St. Louis when I met with the president of St. Louis University, a guy named Father Johnson, some years ago. It had nothing to do with D.P.s, but it was a time when Jews were fighting the battle – B’nai B’rith fighting the battle with, what are we going to do about enumerous clauses? We were still fighting the battle, now in reverse, against the blacks.
And so Father – it came on something, entirely different mission – when Father Johnson and I were friends and when we get through with whatever it was I was talking to him about – he said, “Al, I want you to wait a few minutes.” He said, “We’ve got a problem.” He reaches into the bottom drawer; the bottom left-hand drawer was the drawer with the deepest, you know, and he pulls out – we’re not on television; you can’t see it. He pulls out a packet of applications, must have been at least a foot and a half or two feet high. I’m not exaggerating. And he says, “What am I going to do with these?” I said, “What are they?” “They’re applications to the medical school.” So I made my best B’nai B’rith speech. He said, “How am I going to select the people?” And I said, “Father, you select them on the basis of their grades, who’s going to make the best doctors in the judgement of the school or the committee.”
You see, what had happened was Washington University had enumerous clauses. Everybody knew, in the medical school – you couldn’t prove it – six Jews out of 125, seven, five, eight. But that was it. St. Louis University, because Dr. – Rabbi – Dr. Klausner, who’s not related to the other Klausner, I don’t think. But he was, he was the head of the mathematics department; he was the head of the Jewish National Fund, and he was a professor at St. Louis University, was able to influence them in many ways. They didn’t have enumerous clauses. They didn’t? They had to have. I’ll tell you how they had to have it, same thing. The word got out that here is good. St. Louis University takes Jews. So he said, “What am I going to do?” I make my speech. He says, “In that case, I wouldn’t have a single Catholic in the school.” I said, “What do you mean by that,” never having encountered that problem. He says, “Not one of these 600 applicants – all Jews. Not one is lower than A-students, all the way through; everyone with the highest recommendations. Nobody dares to apply to medical school without that.” Which apparently nobody did, because he said there’s no point in applying to medical school if you don’t have the highest grades. He said, “I wouldn’t have anybody in my – I wouldn’t have a single Catholic in the school.” I’ll never forget it; I put on my coat – it was in the wintertime. And I walked out the door, and as I got to the door, I said, “Father, you know, you’ve got a problem.” And I went out the door, for the first time realizing he’s got to decide, “I’m taking 10 Jews, I’m taking 15, I’m taking five.”
Whether we like it or not, same thing with my guy in Wiesbaden. He made – he was going to make a record. The better he made it, the worse it got. That, by the way, is what happened to the big cities when the big rush came for blacks to leave the South. They heard that in the big cities there’s a ________, in Washington, in St. Louis, in Detroit, in Chicago. We went – you know, in St. Louis we used to have 40,000 blacks in St. Louis, with one million people. 400,000 now – 70 percent of, you know about this – 72 percent, in the paper, of the kids in school in St. Louis are black, and we’re gonna have a desegregation program. It’ll never work.
Anyhow, what I came away from was a great deal of respect for the J.D.C. and certainly for O.R.T., because none of these had any political problems. Nobody incited – of course, Eddie Warburg, who was over there at the time, also a major in the army, I think.
FLEISCHMAN: Yeah, and Eddie – you know, I met Eddie; I met him before at meetings of the American Jewish Committee and, uh, I had been Secretary of the Jewish Federation. I was the first Russian Jew to hold office, with Russian born parents, in the Jewish Federation, which has come a long way since that time. Of course, you don’t see many German born Jews anymore around, but that kind of transition took place. But a great respect for O.R.T. I don’t know where we would have been, and I think your studies must have shown it was – they were teaching people every kind of trade and the J.D.C. was lifting stuff and so on. (TAPE STOPS)
GROBMAN: You mentioned something about O.R.T., and this really interests me. Because we have a document by Dr. Samuel Steinberg, the O.R.T. Director for the United States zone in Germany from 1947-1948, in which he agrees with Chaplain Klausner that the vocational training program was “overrated both quantitatively and qualitatively.” He calls it the “lack of competent instructors and unscrupulous leaders whose sole interests have been a paper record account for this fact.” In other words, the history of O.R.T. during this period, to the best of my knowledge, is not in here. However, the information which I uncovered in my own research indicates that – it proves for the most part it was overrated. And here you have an example of the director of the program for ’47-’48 saying the same thing. Did you want…
FLEISCHMAN: Yeah, I want to comment on that, to say that I have no comment whatsoever to make on the quality or the quantity. I have a comment to make on the psychology. And I’m telling you – and you know I spent two of the three months I was supposed to spend over there – and wherever I went I found the shops, wherever I went I found the factories, wherever I went I found little farms. I cannot tell you that they were run by competent teachers. I can only tell you that the act of having them was a liason between a life that was still out there for people, and even those who didn’t participate – this was a definite feeling I had – even for the thousands who didn’t participate, true, they’re right. The numbers were small. But I can show you pictures of the young people that I said, “Come on outside; I want to take your picture.” And the faces of those people for that little, relative handful, they had the makings of being the leaders. And without leadership you weren’t going to get anyplace. You don’t get any place in this country.
I’m saying to you, that the act of having a little shtiebl where people were learning – or not learning, but learning was taking place too – because right away, you know, the religious Jews were right away with the Talmud and right away with Chevra Mishnayes, the whole business. And that was another thing; I haven’t even mentioned that. But you found that, we found that throughout. And davening in the group of, not every Jew was religious…more than every Jew in Israel is religious, as we – I don’t have to go into that. That’s not what we’re talking about here. But for those who were, it was a very important thing, for only the handful of Jews that davened on Friday night and Saturday that I davened with. And with all their schukling and their crying – remember, they’re on the bloody soil of Germany.
And to try to evaluate in terms of whether the teachers were competent, for me was a nothing thing. For me it was important that there were teachers. And the fact that they were unscrupulous – those people – as Zalman Grinberg I think said someplace, where they had to lie and cheat and steal as a way of life – I must tell you, and I won’t mention names. But some people who have employed on a retail level Russian immigrants here in St. Louis tell me, in some confidence, but tell me, that one of their problems is not that they steal from him, but they try to cheat every customer. You don’t know this? Oh, I mention the names of kosher butcher shops, you know you have to watch them like a hawk, because they try to make a little bit less that the customer gets. They don’t know anything else. Their whole life has been underground dealings, underhanded dealings. And it’s a way of life.
GROBMAN: No, I don’t think that they were talking about (OVERTALK) I think that they were talking about O.R.T. instructors, from the outside.
FLEISCHMAN: Were unscrupulous? In that case I have no – I have no comment. But I can only tell you that the O.R.T. schools in each one of the camps may have been disappointing to Klausner, and disappointing to J.D.C. –
GROBMAN: And even disappointing to the director of O.R.T. himself –
FLEISCHMAN: And even the director of O.R.T. himself, but the fact that they were there. Look, I can tell you that the six of us, seven of us who came to the camps, were like a ray of light to them until their leaders talked to us, “Somebody’s here; thank God. Somebody besides the J.D.C. and somebody besides…” Of course they had a job to do; they were doing the welfare. “Somebody cares,” which is what they told us over and over again. They could demonstrate for us; that’s what my pictures show, the demonstrations. Who were they demonstrating – there were only six of us, seven of us. And they put up big demonstration signs, “No Jewish, No Freedom, No World Freedom Without Jewish Freedom. We Want To Go To Palestine!” For six people, five thousand people demonstrated.
The fact that they could demonstrate was itself a kind of an emotional outlet, that they wouldn’t have had – the frustration they would have had without it. So I don’t disagree with what they said. I’m only saying they left out the fact that the act of, of being there…Now I say the same thing is true of Israel, and to various, considerable extent, in the United States.
But we’ve got – if we’re going to go to Israel and try to find the defects, you know, the showplace in Israel – what’s the old folks home in…the J.D.C. takes people to, you know. Oh God, the name is familiar as hell…you’ve been in Israel, haven’t you? There’s a, there’s an olivewood factory right there. It’s as well-known as my own name. But, I know that every old folks home doesn’t have this kind of thing, but there’s an old folks home that has it. I know that everything that you see in Israel, the touristy, isn’t what it is all over.
So I had an Israeli here two weeks ago and everybody said, “Take him to the zoo. Take him to the opera.” I said, “Not me. I’m taking him through Jeff Vanderloo.”(?) Do you know what I’m talking about? And I showed him where I was born, on 10th and Carr. And then I took him to 2700 Sheridan. And for one solid hour he pointed out to me – one solid hour, he didn’t see a white face. We took in and off the streets; I showed him where they’re trying to rehabilitate. I showed him how bad it was. I showed him the burnt out buildings.
We saw – it was a warm day like today; it’s 90 degrees outside today, 100 degrees – I’m saying this for the tape. Everybody’s sitting outside; you can’t sit inside. Hundreds of blacks sitting around, and I told him, “I don’t care what the figures show. We know through the Urban League that 50% of the black males who can work are not working. There are no jobs.” Maybe a certain percentage of them can’t work because they have no work ethic, but they aren’t working, and we’re sitting on top of what could very well be a volcano. And the reason there’s no volcano is because of welfare. Somebody’s actually being able to eat through food stamps and some monies, which they get, and so on, you know.
And when I got through he thanked me after that day because he never would have seen this part of the United States. I know the slums in Israel. I’m not just a tourist to Israel. But I also accept those slums as being part of the totality of man’s problems. Where aren’t there any slums? Well, I was in Hamburg, Germany; there were no slums. In Berlin there are no slums. You name it – there are slums all over. Where – in England there are no slums? I had to go find a kosher restaurant in the slums of England.
GROBMAN: Okay, let’s now start –
FLEISCHMAN: My answer is – and I hope someplace along the line you point out that psychologically the fact of their existence was also of importance.
GROBMAN: I’d like to start now from the beginning, because you’ve raised a number of issues. First of all, one question that we didn’t answer was why were you picked?
FLEISCHMAN: You’d have to ask Hyman – Henry Monsky – he’s dead; he’s in the grave…ask him. I was President of B’nai B’rith lodge. If you want to know why I was picked I guess. We had a secret group in the Pentagon; I’ve never told this to anyone except to only two or three people. That group consisted of a half a dozen Jews in strategic locations in the Pentagon. One guy was a colonel, full colonel in the A-1. Do you know what A-1 was? Personnel in the Chief of Staff’s office, Marshall’s office – Jewish colonel. One was a major, or lieutenant colonel in orientation in special services. He was a psychiatrist. Uh, another was, there were six or seven of us, I forget. And we used to meet periodically, and I can’t remember – Frank Weil – you know that name?
GROBMAN: Sure, from the (OVERTALK) J.W.B.
FLEISCHMAN: J.W.B. Frank used to come down from New York and he’d meet with us, and we’d tell him where we uncovered, antisemitism, and we’d tell him what we found that was bad for the Jews. And I told him about Dr. Senturia. It’s – both Senturias were called to the war. You know how I told you about Hymie Senturia and…
GROBMAN: Sure, uh-huh.
FLEISCHMAN: …and Ben Senturia were, were renowned in military – in military medicine. Would you believe it? When a general got really in bad shape, I would find Hymie Senturia from St. Louis, a radiologist or encrinologist, was called to Washington. And so was Benny Senturia frequently. But I don’t think they ever got promoted from captain to – from captain.
I was also – my desk was right next to the colonel’s – maybe 10 feet away – in charge of personnel, and I’d see the teletypes that would go out to all camps’ posted stations, “We need five from you, two from you, one from you. Doctors to go be shipped overseas.” And then a return teletype, “Abe Goldberg, Sam Goldstein, Charlie Zeffer.” It was incredible! They got rid of their Jews. When I was in Eagle Pass, Texas, and before I went to Washington, I was there nine months, the only time I ever saw two Jewish WAC captains – a captain and a lieutenant – Jewish. The only time I ever saw a –WAC private, mostly – not mostly – but a lot of Jewish girls – Eagle Pass, Texas. The only place I ever saw where flying officers were Jewish, won’t amount to hill of beans, was Eagle Pass, Texas. The only place I ever found where there were lots of Jewish doctors – you could hold a minyan on Friday night. And the Jewish Welfare Board sent guys from San Antonio, I don’t know, a couple of hundred miles away, every Friday, bring us all kinds of things, you know, for Shabbas foods. And we held services. We had enough people to hold services. Why, because Eagle Pass, Texas had 140 degree temperature in the summer. It had one inch of rain all year. It was on the Rio Grande, across from Mexico; it was a hellhole. And I said to myself, “Why walk out in this heat now?” Is because I said, “If I ever escape from here alive, I’ll never complain about the heat again.” I never have. I can walk to my office from here, no problem. Why should it be a problem – it’s only 100 degrees. We had 140 degrees on the flag line. We never – when we took a shower, we never used a towel, because the wind coming off of the Rio Grande, in from Mexico, would dry us just like that. You just had to stand there; it was incredible. So, I mean…what was my point?
GROBMAN: Why you were picked.
FLEISCHMAN: Oh yeah. So I went – we had this group – and Henry Monsky, of course, because of the A.D.L. and the American Jewish Committee, was fully aware of it. But remember, the Jewish Welfare Board had the connections with the army, the armed forces. And Henry Monsky was a friend of mine; I knew him from Omaha and I have relatives in Omaha who were good friends of Henry Monsky’s. I was President of B’nai B’rith Lodge here, and Henry had come out.
Right now Phil Klutznick, who’s the Secretary of Commerce, he came down to install me as the first president of Brandeis Lodge of B’nai B’rith. So when I write to Phil, I send him all this stuff that I’m fighting all over the country about not agreeing with the present public relations of the situation in Jewish life, which I don’t have to go into here. But I write to Phil all the time, and that when I was stationed in Washington I used to have dinner with Phil every other week or something like that.
GROBMAN: So in other words, there was a –
FLEISCHMAN: But I knew these people very well. When Sidney Solomon was – you know the name, don’t you?
FLEISCHMAN: Became Executive Assistant to, uh, Bob Hannigan – who was the Postmaster General and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee – Henry Monsky called me and said, “We don’t know much about Sidney. It’s a very strategic position. Would you talk to him and point out as a Jew he’s got to be doubly careful because everybody’s watching him.” You know, I had lunch with Sidney. I was the agent. We had a lot of guys like that.
Now what, I’ll tell you what Frank Weil used to do. John J. McCloy – do you know that name?
FLEISCHMAN: He’s still around. He’s a banker. I think he has traffic with the Arabs now, but he’s a big corporate lawyer. A corporate lawyer evidently has to be dealing with Arab oil people…he represents the oil interests. But John J. McCloy was the Undersecretary of War.
GROBMAN: He answered some of the Jewish letters – letters from Jews – about why Auschwitz wasn’t bombed. I’ll show you the letters…
FLEISCHMAN: He did? John J. McCloy did? Well, John J. McCloy was the contact between Frank Weil and the Jewish Welfare Board. He would pass on to him what we had given to him. Nobody ever released the fact that nobody ever knew that’s where it came from. But we were in a position because of our strategic placement. It sounded like a Jewish plot, it wasn’t; it was a matter of self-preservation because we met each other and formed that little group –
GROBMAN: – which was done by yourself; there wasn’t any outside…
FLEISCHMAN: Well, I think Frank Weil asked us. I knew Frank Weil because of my being on the board of the Y.M.H.A. here in St. Louis. Remember, I’d been active in Jewish life for many years before I got in the army, and I knew these people. But Henry and I were friends from way back when, especially since our families knew each other. My cousins in Omaha, I mean. But this was mostly a B’nai B’rith. See, Henry Bizgar – Maurice Bizgar – do you remember that name? Well, Maurice and I were very good friends long before Henry Monsky became President of B’nai B’rith. So when Henry became President of B’nai B’rith, he’s got to find a Jew to make this trip. He’s got to find somebody in the armed forces. He was smart enough to know that if you didn’t send somebody in the armed forces, you might have problems with red tape. You pick somebody out at headquarters. All that combined, I think, made for my being picked. I don’t know of any other reason for it. How many active Jews were there in the Pentagon, you know, not many. (BACKGROUND CONVERSATION)
Once a month Frank Weil would come down. We’d meet with him privately in a hotel. We’d eat dinner is his room; make sure that nobody was bugging the room. And he was a great man, that Frank Weil. And Frank Weil’s friends in the American Jewish Committee, and others, many of the people who were rich – among the so-called “rich Jews” abhorred the notion that there was a Jewish War Veterans, for example. “Why Jewish? Why do we have to ghettoize ourselves?” Do you want to know what Frank Weil’s answer was? “Gentlemen,” he was the first one to say this; it’s been repeated a number times, “if there was no Jewish War Veterans, we’d have to form one.” They didn’t exist. You’d better understand, they’re the only ones that can talk on the same level with the American Legion. At that time the American Legion was a powerful outfit – Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Wounded War Veterans – Disabled War Veterans. The only relationship – Sammy Shakowitz – you met Sam Shakowitz before he died. Sammy, you wouldn’t call Sammy the world’s greatest heavyweight; hot damn, he had connections with the American Legion. He went to all their conventions. He went overseas. He went on trips with them; and if you had problems in the American Legion or in the armed forces, you get Sammy Shakowitz.
GROBMAN: Now, how long exactly were you in Europe?
FLEISCHMAN: Two months. There were the three months I was supposed to…
GROBMAN: Two months. Two months in, in D.P. camps?
FLEISCHMAN: Yeah that’s all. Well, we had that – I had a couple of weeks that I told you about, that we got stuck in London and Paris, where they wouldn’t let us get in.
GROBMAN: Right. I don’t understand how that happened. After all, you had gotten clearance.
FLEISCHMAN: Clearance had to come – it took us at least three months, at least three months to get clearance even to go overseas.
GROBMAN: Well I realize that. But once the clearance had been given…
FLEISCHMAN: They would not, nothing came through from Eisenhower. The State Department cleared it, U.N.R.R.A. cleared it, but we sat there in London waiting for Eisenhower because he had to clear us. We couldn’t get in. All you’ve got to do is understand how the hierarchy works in the army during war. The Supreme Commander – he was the Supreme Commander. I watched him walk up and down the halls in Frankfurt where we took over the I.G. Farben plant there. It became the headquarters. Until this day–
Tape 2 - Side 2
FLEISCHMAN: Have you spent time in Germany at all?
FLEISCHMAN: To this day when you talk about utter devestation, the bombing, well, if you go to Frankfurt, Frankfurt had been hit all around, bombed, everything torn to shreds, Dortmund, Dorthmond, all of those – it was incredible; rebuilt 90% of it. The mayor, or the city planner, of Dortmund – see, I went back in 1964 to study the effects of the Marshall Plan, believe it or not. It took me two weeks to accept the invitation to go back; this was Lyndon Johnson’s doing. He’d asked if there was anything he could do for me, and I’d done something for him. And, “You’ve got it. You’ve got it. Do you want the job?” “No, I don’t want any job, thank you very much. I’m staying right here.” The smartest thing I ever did was not to take a government job.
But anyhow, I go to Germany and…what was my point? (BACKGROUND CONVERSATION) Oh yeah, but that…yeah, yeah, sure. That’s right. We’re on top of a church steeple and the mayor of Dortmund says, “Look,” or the city planner, “Look how beautiful it worked out.” He had previously shown us the plan worked out on model. And then he forgets he’s talking to Americans, to 10 of us. He said, “It’s too bad that the Americans didn’t bomb the other 10% of the city; we’d have a whole new city.” (LAUGHTER BY GROBMAN) And he said, he caught himself, because after all, people got killed in great numbers. We bombed 90% of Dortmund, so 90% of Dortmund is new. You don’t have to have any rehabilitation. You don’t have to worry about whose going to live where when you’re moving people around.
So…but God damn, I’ve got so many things to…what was that point, though, about Eisenhower? (OVERTALK) Oh yeah, the I.G. Farben. I’m really not that senile, it’s just 10 years over, you know. (LAUGHTER BY GROBMAN) I don’t think I am, anyway. You can’t tell. But Eisenhower, we were in the I.G. Farben plant, our headquarters. Why didn’t they bomb the I.G. Farben plant? Not one brick is touched. But a mile away it was laid low. Such precision bombing you never saw. A lot of us, of course, believe that this was part of the whole cartel. “Jesus, don’t do that.” Now, what they told us was – and we knew we were winning war, and we needed a headquarters, and there was no reason to bomb this. It wouldn’t have helped us win the war any faster. It wouldn’t have helped to win the war? To bomb the place where most of the German chemicals and gun powder and what not came from? Now, I’m no maven of what wins a war, but I can tell you that a lot of funny things happened.
And, of course when you talk about unscrupulous here…I happen to be one of those who believe that Jews are like other people, maybe only more so. What went on in the army, the black market, my God what we saw. In the weeks that I was in Paris and in London – because I had friends in both places – do you know who was a sergeant, maybe you ran across him. He’s active in the Jewish Federation, and he was a reporter for, at that time, for the St. Louis Historic Times. And he married a very rich girl whose father was in the loan business. So he’s a big loan executive now – damn. But anyhow, the point is that what went on there was hard to believe. I mean, everybody was stealing, everybody was cheating, everybody was in the black market with American money and French francs. I was going to exchange my American money for French francs, and the guy said, “Oh, don’t do that. Give it to me.” And instead of 300 French francs, I got 3000. 300 was the established – but he knew where to go. Anyhow…
GROBMAN: No, the black market is a very important point because the Jews were attacked by the Germans in the army for being involved in the black market.
GROBMAN: Neil? Sloan? Slot?pointed out that, take away the Jews and the black market would have continued to flourish because, as another historian has pointed out, that a lot of work didn’t go on in Germany because the officers were out selling, selling on the black market themselves.
FLEISCHMAN: I think we probably refined the black market, but look at the experience we’ve had for 2000 years being secondhand clothing salesmen, picking up things that nobody else wanted and selling them, finding out what somebody needed here and didn’t need there, and making the two come together. We’re experts at that. That’s been our forte.
GROBMAN: So after you got to Germany, where was the – where did you go? Could you give us…
FLEISCHMAN: I came right home.
GROBMAN: No, no, no, once you got into Germany.
FLEISCHMAN: Germany – first place was Frankfurt with General Clay – an orientation from General Clay who was then Eisenhower’s right hand man. By the way, the guy that we found – this spills out; you’ll have to separate this out yourself. If it’s worth that, separating. The guy that we found had the greatest heart of all was General Bradley.
GROBMAN: Why was that?
FLEISCHMAN: Seventh Army, oh. Not many people will know what Omar Bradley did. He’s the guy – there was a Colonel Coolevich who was in the Marine Corps, and there was a guy who became president of…his name slips my mind too.