Born in 1926, Jerome Unruh was drafted into the Army during World War II. He was soon sent to the European Front where he saw action in France and Germany. During his time in the Army, he was considered Missing–In-Action for seven days and liberated a Concentration Camp.
Interviewee: Jerome Unruh
Interviewers: Rachel Treglia, Michelle Ramstack,
and Teddy Connell
Date of Interview: July 25, 2016
Then we left France, and by truck went all the way up to Berlin. We were the first American division in Berlin to pull occupation. The only thing separated us from the Russians were the Brandenburg gate. It has big columns up and on the header, it’s got a chariot on top with horses. That was the separation point between us and the Russians. Interestingly, at night time, we could hear all this screaming and stuff going on. Didn’t know what it was at first, then we finally found out. What was happening, the Russians were leaving their sector, walking up the railroad tracks. You can’t get lost going between the rails. They were going in the Bahnhof, the railroad bunkers, and they were raping the young girls and the women and then looting the place. And the screaming and stuff and hollering going on all night long. And nobody done anything about it. So, about a half a dozen of us idiots sit down and decide we were going to see what we could come to, to correct it. Well the airborne had air cool machine guns, light weight. We didn’t have the heavy water cool. So what we did, we took a thirty caliber air cool machine gun, set the tripod down between the rails, mounted the gun on it, and aimed it down the track. A little elevation and tightened her down and said, “Now, whoever is on guard duty, when you go by, hit the trigger two or three times.” And guess what? We never had another Russian come up that railroad track. And our officers knew what we had done.
I walk down this brick wall come out to this street, Duesseldorfer Strasserauf. I looked up and down the street, and I didn’t see anybody. And I looked across the street, I saw this grey haired woman. So I walked right up to her, and I had my jump boots, combat pants, woolen knit sweater and a woolen hat on. I walked right over there to her, and I said, “American Soldat” (Soldier), and she just looked at me. And I pulled my dog tags out, and I held [them] out and said, “American Soldat” and closed the window. I didn’t know what the hell to do right then. I turned around and I was looking around the area to try to figure out what the move would be the best way for me to go from there next. And I heard this noise. I turned around and looked, and it is this grey haired women. She opened the door and put her hand out. I took her hand and went in, and they got a chair, right, and I sit down on the chair. She got a basin of water out, and they washed my face and my father Wellmann shaved me. I call them mother and father Wellmann because they really are my adopted parents. And she got some, well we have all have it here, boiled potatoes with white gravy in it. [She] got that out and gave me something to eat. And then she said, ‘Schlafen.” Well we know what that is, so to follow him. So I went in this little room, and there was a cot. She said, “Schlafen” so I laid down, and they closed the door. And they went out, and I was laying there on that little cot. I got to thinking, “My God, that door opens, there is going to be somebody I don’t want to see come in here.” So I got up and went out and in the room. Over in that corner was a sink, then there was a chair, and then a stove here. So I sit down there. And they kept being “Schlafen, go back.”
“No, no, no, nein, nein, neon, I won’t do it.” Well in early afternoon, father Wellmann let me know that he had to go in town and that he would come back. So when he come back, I was still sitting in that chair. When he come back by himself I knew that I was safe.
After staying there, I couldn’t go to the window [to] look out. [If] anybody come and tapped on the window, Mother Wellman would go. I found out in 1968, when they come over here for a visit, that the house, when I went down the hall and turn left in their apartment, if I’d a turned right I would have walked into the Nazi headquarters. And they knew, they knew that if the Nazis had caught them hiding me, then all three of us would have been killed.
Wöbbelin Concentration Camp
We fought our way up to a place called Ludwigslust. Before we got to Ludwigslust we run into a concentration camp, Wöbbelin. We took the camp, and they had everything in there. You just can’t believe what it was like. And I will say one thing for our officers. they made the citizen population come out, man, women, and kid, regardless of your sexual orientation, and go down and get the bodies and bring them up and in the park of Ludwigslust. They made them dig the graves, made them go out and dig the graves. A lot of them that had been buried in a hurry because of the Allied troops coming up there, made them go dig them up and you can see them pulling the bodies out of the shallow graves where they cleaned some of the dirt off the top of some of them. Nothing left on them, but skin and bones. Then all of the people, in the town, had to go through the concentration camp. And we stood at different stations, and when they went through, women would put their hands up and boohooing and going on, and we would touch them and point to their eyes and make them look. There was nobody that went through that camp that didn’t see what was done. Then they went up and dug all these graves, and took all the dead bodies out and buried them and put white crosses in and the German population made the crosses out of boards and they painted them white. Now what they have there in Ludwigslust is square ground level marble slabs with inscriptions on it.
We took a town in the Battle of the Bulge and the name of the town is called Niersbach. On the way in, we met a bunch of German troops. We killed 138 and captured 180, never lost a man. Of course, there was snow on the ground and laying over there on the side of the field, in the field on the side of the road, were all these German soldiers. I walked over and looked at them, and most of them were still at sling arms, never even got their rifles off their shoulders. They were kids, 12-13-14 year olds — Hitler’s Youth Corps. And we killed 138 and captured 180. Hitler’s Youth Corps. Now I’m 19 years old. Don’t think it don’t take a toll on you!