This is an interview I did with 88 year old Harold Friedeman a 1943 Hackensack High School graduate, at 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning October 5, 2013. 

       Harold Friedeman told me he was on the track team at Hackensack and was involved with the stage hands who helped with the High school productions just like today. 
            I asked Harold if he was drafted or enlisted and he said, “I was drafted.  Once I turned 18 years old in September after about two months I was in the service.  I was in the Army Infantry.”  I was sent to Camp Dix and I was sent to Camp Croft in South Carolina for my basic and advanced training.  I was in the 30th Infantry Division which was mainly from the south it was a National Guard Unit that had been mobilized once the war started.  I left from New York on the ship the Niew Amsterdam.  We landed in (Glasgo) Scotland a very nice town.  Then we went by train from there to Southern England.  I was near I think it was called (Stork).’
            I asked Harold if he was part of the invasion and he said, “No!  I was aboard the “Niew Amsterdam” when the invasion took place we had left on June 1. We came ashore in France through Omaha Beach.”  I asked him if there was any remnant’s of the initial invasion on Omaha Beach and he said yes but we did not discuss any details on that.  Harold said it was the later part of June when he had arrived on Omaha Beach and the Army had pushed in by then.  The invasion took place on June 6, 1944 so the beach head was secured by then. 
            I asked Harold Friedeman what rank he was his answer was, “PFC (Private First Class a promotion from just plain Private) and that was because I was a prisoner of war.” Harold Laughed after mentioning why he was promoted.  I asked Harold to explain what happened from this point on while they moved forward into the combat zone;
             “We were in a camp, I can’t remember the name of the camp.  Then all of a sudden a group of us were pulled out of this camp as replacements and that’s how I wound up with the thirtieth infantry division.  I’d say that was the mid part of July (1944).  That is when I was attached to the thirtieth Infantry Division and I guess we had been fighting for about three weeks.  We were pulled back for R&R then on August 6 (1944) we went back to the Division in the front lines and went to this town called Mortain in France.  We arrived there on Saturday afternoon and we were supposed to hold this town at all costs it was an important intersection.  Early Sunday morning the Germans bombed all the roads so we couldn’t get out.  Sunday morning we saw the Germans coming.  I and another guy who were up front saw this motor cycle coming down the road and I said “He is German”, just as I said that we got bombarded with mortars.  So we went back to town and we bumped into several other soldiers who were sheltering in the basement of this building where we all went.  Then all of a sudden while we were down there we heard German voices so we kept quiet.  So anyway, they saw the opening going down into the basement and they were about to lob a concussion grenade into it so we decided to get out of there and we got caught by SS troops. 
              They had a leader, most of the SS troops looked no more then 18-19 years old they were just people, heck I was only 18 years old (laughter followed).  I can remember this one guy came up to me he saw my watch and he started to take it off but the leader of the group came back and said something to him and he put it back on my wrist,” I said really and Harold replied exuberantly “Yeh I Was Amazed.”
            “Then from there on they brought us back basically just behind the front lines.  We were lead by a truck convoy and we really didn’t want to go by truck.  Then they put us on a train and we went farther back into Germany and we ended up in a camp called Stalag7A.”  I was there for quiet awhile then all of a sudden fourteen of us from a camp of about 1,000 get picked out.  We were all apprehensive because once you get out of a group of people your out on your own, you don’t know what’s going to happen to you really.  So we got pulled out for whatever reason I have no idea and neither did the other guys.  They brought us back to a town called Schrobenhausen where we lived in the jail.  It was a walled town if you can believe it from Midevil times.  The town had two pedestrian entrances and two vehicle entrances.  Some people lived in the wall, the walls were about fifteen feet thick. 
We were housed in the jail there and then we would be let out to do some work, it was almost winter time we worked on a farm for a period of time and then when the farm chores were over ‘Tons and Tons of potatoes I picked (Laughing he continued) Tons and Tons of them.’  Anyway then winter time we got assigned to, I called him the forest mystery.  We went out into the forest and cut trees down and not to pat myself on the back but we became there experts.  We got so proficient that we could look at a tree and put a stick where the top was going to land.  At first we didn’t know what we were doing so when we cut a tree down and it fell the wrong way and got hung up in another tree we had to work like heck to roll it out of there and get it down.  We had to get good at where it landed and so that’s what we did and then we would cut it up and haul it out of the forest to a dirt road where it was loaded onto wagons.  That’s what we did for most of the winter time.
When that was finished we went back to this other town called Schrobenhausen and then I got picked to be, I called it the head of the Shade tree commission.  I went out with one other guy and planted trees.  Right near the town was a hospital for German wounded troops and we got spit on and shall I say ‘they weren’t very kind to us.’  When that ended the war was winding down and we had, when we first went out of Mooseburg, two German guards assigned to the 14 of us, one spoke German and the other spoke German and English.  Of course the English speaking guy always spoke to us.  Now when December (1944) came the battle of the Bulge started the English speaking guard said to us that Germany was going to win the war and we were going to have to learn German.  He cut off speaking English to us completely.  By that time you had picked up certain German words to associate with so we had some idea what they were saying. 
I think my most memorable experience of this time in December in the town of Schrobenhausen the allies were bombing continually, primarily during the day time and they would take us to the Air Raid shelters.  When we were in the shelter we were kept all by ourselves so we didn’t mingle with the other people.  There were a group of German kids, boys and girls that were singing Christmas Carols that we recognized.  So once they finished the song we sang it in English.  We went back and forth like that while we were there.  I thought that was nifty really!  That really stands out in my mind.”  I said that I thought that sounded like a very moving experience, he responded, “Yes it was!” He then continued, “Some of the German people would give us bread and stuff when we were out like that, but we assumed, because all of a sudden it stopped that a neighbor or someone saw this and said something to the Castapo or somebody and it ended like that. 
I asked Harold what they ate while they were working on this farm.  He replied, “Mainly we had potatoes and other stuff, thank goodness Red Cross parcels would come.”  I asked if they were stolen and he answered, “Yes a lot was stolen but eventually some would get through and it helped supplement what we were getting.  This was one of the bigger farms in the area and we sabotaged their potato digging machine several times(laughter).”  I asked what they had done, “We made it so the digger on the back would fall off.  They eventually picked up on what we were doing and they made us fix it but they never punished us for it. 
One day I was on the farm a buddy and I saw a plane drop a bomb on Saturday, so Sunday my buddy and I decided to go in the direction of the explosion and we found the crater, but we had gone on our own!  We didn’t tell anybody (laughter) all of a sudden a guard came running up to us he didn’t shoot at us or anything (laughter). 
I asked Harold from a human side did you know how far you could push them with situations like that and he replied, “We were adventurous young guys and we didn’t think they would shoot us.”
“When we were in the prison we would trade things with the prison guards along the fence line only at night.  What we used to do when we would get Red Cross parcels sometimes we would get Canadian Red Cross parcels, there would be tea in it and we would use the tea and then we would dry them out and put them back in the tin can.  Then we would go to the guards and trade the dried used tea for bread or whatever from them (laughter).  Of course once they found out about it they didn’t like it and we heard about it.  These are little things of what happened while being a prisoner.                         
            We G.I.’s were very creative, when a plane got shot down, I only saw one of our B17’s get shot down, but anyway, we would find the debris when walking and pick up small pieces of the aluminum from the planes and make cigarette cases and tin cans.  The tin cans would be forged (Harold drew a picture of a cup with a small handle that turned) we could heat a little meal in it when we made a little fire, very creative.”
Did they ever interrogate you?   “No!”  Was that because you were a private?  “I guess that was the reason we had no knowledge of anything.  We just did what we were told to do.   Also about being creative, during Christmas the American Planes would drop down the tinsel (Ice Sickles) that hang on a Christmas tree to jam the German radar.  So we collected them when we came across it and then one day when we were brought to forest to cut trees we cut a Christmas tree for ourselves and brought it back to the jail house and had that as our Christmas tree.  With those tinsel things we hung on our tree and our tin cans also what else (laughter) very creative, very creative.”
            Did you ever feel your life was in danger?  “Yes! Towards the wars end the German guards said we have to leave town and so they said we have to go in the daytime.  We told them we didn’t want to go during the daytime because anything that moved in the day time got strafed!  If a cow was crossing the street it got strafed!”  I said none of that strategic strike stuff?  Harold replied “Not even a cow moving around got strafed (Laughter).”  Harold continued, “But the guard says no we’re going to go so we pile our belongings on a railway express type cart some guys pulled it some guys pushed it.  We get everything on the cart and we are not on the road for more then an hour and a plane spots us, I think it was a P38.  It circles back and comes at us sideways we all took cover and nobody got hit thank goodness!  Well that convinced the guards to travel at night. 
            So we found the first farmhouse we could find and we stayed there during the daytime, then at night time we traveled along with the German troops.  We were going back and they were going forward.  Artillery pieces were being drawn by horses, they were really hurting at this time.  We traveled I guess a couple of weeks at least traveling at night.  We were toward southern part of Germany we could see the Alps. We were basically near Munich.  So then one day we heard some shooting and one of the guys went out from this farmhouse we were in and he could see way down the road some activity coming toward us.  So we went back in the barn again and we realized that it was American troops coming toward us.  So we let them go by……          
That’s must have been tough?  “Oh yeh. But we didn’t want to get out because they didn’t know we were there!  We didn’t want them to think we were Germans even though we didn’t have German uniforms on we were cautious.  So after they went by for several hours we finally went out with our hands up and some of our troops came over to us and we explained the situation and all and basically they said you just kind of have to work your way back.” 
            I responded No are you kidding me? And Harold continued, “I am not kidding!  What were they going to do with fourteen people when they are fighting a War you have to look at it that way, so we just had to work our way back.” 
            I asked him just to make it clear how did they get to this barn?  And Harold said that two German guard’s lead them to the American lines and then they were considered repatriated then the guards left.  The guards didn’t stay around for fear of being killed.  Then Harold and all fourteen of them moved forward toward the American troops with the German troops to their rear.
            How did you work your way back?  “We just worked our way back and nothing happened.  This other fella and I always liked to travel so he and I went off on our own and for two weeks that’s what we did we just wonder around seeing the sights that we could see! (Laughter) We finally came back to the camp and the other guys were there also and again we were just in the way there.  We went to the mess hall kitchen and fortunately the cook would feed us and then we asked the cook how do we get back further and the cook said a truck convoy is coming in tomorrow with supplies and you guys could hop on that convoy and go back with them and that’s what we did.  Eventually we wound up in Regansburg.  There was a big airport there that got bombed and we stayed in a hanger there for three or four days, before some planes came in and the supplies got emptied and then they brought us back to France.  The war had ended May 8th (1945) they got us around the middle of May like the 15th.  Then they brought us to cigarette camps they were called Chesterfield, Lucky Strike, etc. and we were interrogated by the Americans then.  We were eating different foods and because we had been prisoners they put us on a special diet which we didn’t like too much there.  Then we left that camp and we got on a Liberty ship and went back to England.  Then we waited to set sail from South Hampton (England) in a convoy of ships.   The ships name was the USS RICHARD BASSETT, I can still remember my prisoner of war number 85055 I can still remember my serial number also, 42019478.  I said I guess you had to say that a few times and Harold laughed and replied “Oh Yes.”  Anyway we left and landed in a port in New York.  Harold stated they went in a convoy because the Navy had no way of knowing if all the U-Boats new the war had ended and so they had to protect the troop ships as if war was still declared. 
            Commenting about his trip home Harold said, “We ran into a fog bank and it was thick coming home and you couldn’t see the ship in front of you or behind you or on the side of you so the whole convoy stopped because there were some icebergs in the area.  That was an ere feeling to get up on deck with a life preserver on and silence you couldn’t hear a thing and then eventually they started up the convoy again.  We headed towards New York and being GI’s you had to have a bet and the bet was what time the guy would step aboard to pilot the ship into the port in New York (Harold didn’t win the bet).  I lived on 224 Moore Street but we went to camp Kilmer and then we were shipped down to Fort Rugter Alabama.  Then to Fort Benning to officers candidate school.    What was happening then was you needed so many points to get discharged and we needed to do this to build up our points to get discharged.
Fort Benning was probably the best Camp to be in.  A Baseball player who played for the Yankees was in my Barracks Billy Johnson, and he got to pick up garbage and stuff during the day and played baseball at night there for the camp team.  
            I went from Fort Benning to Fort Patrick Henry and then to Fort Monmouth where I got discharged in December of 1945.  We were bouncing around for awhile because we were going to have to go to the Pacific to fight but that war ended in August.”  
            I asked even though he was a POW did he still think the Army would have sent them to fight in the Pacific, and Harold responded, “yes this was our feeling, we were still in the service.”     
Were you glad to be home?  “Oh yes I was glad to be home but when I got out of High School no one would hire me because they new I would be drafted and then when I came home no one would hire me because I had no experience it was a catch 22 I got caught in.” 
            Were your parents glad to see you did they know what happened to you?  “Well they got a telegram first saying I was missing in action then several months later they got a telegram telling them I was a prisoner of war.  So they got notified and they would go to the Hackensack Y and they would meet with a group of parents of other families with sons who were prisoner of war.  A family from Bergenfield which they met was a buddy of mine just a coincidence he wound up in the 30th Division to but we were not caught together. 
            Well anyway I continued to look for a job and I worked for my dad as a painter and I kept looking for a job.  I new a man through, the Boy Scouts, who worked for a chemical plant in East Rutherford and through that connection I got a job at the chemical plant, I worked there for 34 years until it closed down.  I was the 72 employee I worked in the office and they had at one point 485 employees.   So when they closed I was 54 years old and it was hard finding a job at that age.  I was married in 1951. 
To continue if you want to know, my youngest daughter passed away recently.  My wife had Muscular Distrophy and my daughters came down with that also.  My wife passed away at the age of 53.  My two daughters had Muscular Destrophy they could get along although I had to be home to help them when they got home.   I did find a job at 54 years old completely different then my office job.  It was in Carlstadt about 15 employees in a shop repairing pumps and motors.  On my feet all day long getting dirty I loved every minute of it.  I liked the fact that at the end of the day I could see what I had done I really liked the job.  I worked there until I was 66 and then I had no choice in the matter I had to retire because of my daughters I mentioned my youngest daughter passed away three years ago and she was in a group home because of her condition.  Both daughters eventually were in group homes. 
            What nationality are you?  “German my father’s father came from Munich.  Some how or other the double NN got dropped and now we have only one N which can be taken for Jewish no question.  I made sure I spelled it with two NN when I was a prisoner. 

            If I might just give an observation of, Harold Friedeman which I thought quite special, through all the situations he confronted he never let the circumstances rule his response and he always seemed to understand his duty and always had hope for tomorrow.  Let us never forget the soldiers sacrifice.