Here’s an interesting and little known fact: Holocaust survivors also served in the United States military. My father-in-law, Paul Dab, was liberated from the camps and after spending some time in Germany to try and locate missing family members, immigrated to the US. Without a completed formal education, job prospects were slim so Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Korean War where he served as a dental technician in a MASH unit.
During his time in Korea, Paul learned English and completed his formal education through High School. I was stunned to hear this story and when questioned, he used to say, “After what the Nazis did to me, there was nothing the Army could do that would ever be worse.” In fact, there were times he was perhaps less than a model soldier. On occasion he refused to get up early in the morning and slept on while his commanding officers berated him and prodded him out of bed. Nevertheless, he served his country well and was honorably discharged.
I have always been fascinated by this story. My own father served in Europe during World War II and his experience mirrored the famous quote “war is hell.” In fact so traumatized was he that when asked by us what he did during the war he would usually say, “I was a cook.” I later learned he was a co-pilot who gave orders to drop bombs. And his lifelong fear of flying was fueled by memories of overworked, exhausted pilots crashing their planes. So the fact of my father-in-law’s service was perplexing.
After some research I learned there were in fact many other Holocaust survivors who either enlisted or were drafted during the Korean War. Here, in his own words, is the story of Mike Blain in the November 7, 2013 edition of the Cleveland Jewish News.
This week as we honor and think about all our US service men and women, remember also those who went from the horror of the Holocaust to the front lines to defend our freedom.
Do you have an unusual story about someone in your family? If you’d like to tell your story contact us at theperetzproject.org