GIs Remember

W. Gunther Plaut - Nordhausen


W. Gunther Plaut was born in Germany, and in 1935 fled the Nazis and went to the United States. The day after he received his U.S. citizenship on March 31, 1943, he enlisted in Cincinnati as a chaplain in the U.S. Army. He was eventually assigned to the 104th Infantry Timberwolf Division. He served as a frontline chaplain with the 104th in Belgium and Germany.

"When the Division captured Cologne in March, 1945, 1 made my way to the famous Roon Street Synagogue, which had been the city's major place of Jewish worship. The beautiful building was a ruin (it has since been restored by the German government). When the citizens of Cologne saw my chaplain's jeep riding through the bombed-out city, the surviving Jews began to emerge from hiding. They, and many members of the 104th Division, both Jews and non-jews, attended the first synagogue service held again in public, in the land which Hitler still ruled.

Shortly thereafter I celebrated the first Seder in Bonn, when the order came to move out and cross the conquered Remagen bridge. With the Seder interrupted and many matzot still at hand, I and my assistant, Joe Flamm, stood on top of our jeep at the entrance to the bridge and cried 'Matzot for Pesach' as the trucks rolled by. Before long the supply was gone.

On April 11, 1945, the 104th overran the Dora-Nordhausen Concentration Camp. The countless dead were still lying about and the few survivors were barely alive. I made the burghers of Nordhausen bury the dead, while they objected that such a request was clearly 'inhumane.' Although the survivors had not eaten for a long time their first request was not for food but for Jewish religious items, and for our troops to get in touch with their relatives in the United States or somewhere in the world."


Source: GIs Remember, (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Jewish Military History, 1994).