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On Holocaust Remembrance Day, I think of my in-laws.

Jerzy Soltan, “spindly and peppery ex-cavalry officer who … spent the war as a [Polish prisoner of the] Germans,” and his wife Hanka, who, with her parents, in their apartment near the Warsaw ghetto, hid a little Jewish boy until the war was over.

(“Borucinski, Michal and his wife Zofia and their daughter Hanna Soltan“)


It was George Patton’s 3rd Army that liberated Jerzy’s camp, Murnau.

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5 Responses to “Meet the In-Laws.”

  1. Stephen Karlson Says:

    It appears that the camp was an army barracks or some similar government building. I have not identified the elements of Third Army that came that way. It is likely, given the date of liberation, 29 April, that the camp was incidental to the push toward Berchtesgaden and Salzburg to secure the Alpine Redoubt, which Army Intelligence suggested was where what remained of the Nazi leadership was going to hole up, along with the true believers, and conduct a Tito-style campaign up in those hills.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Stephen: What Jerzy told me was that Patton peeled off a few troops (I have no idea how many) and sent them to the camp — but yes, it was incidental to the big push toward those more important places. “The saviors were a unit of the 101st Cavalry, part of Patton’s 3rd Army.” This account matches what Jerzy describes, without the detail of his amazement (he was at the front gate and watched the firefight) at the sight of an elegantly dressed Nazi officer’s uniform suddenly turning dark red from top to bottom. It took Jerzy a few moments to realize that this magic trick happened because the officer had been shot to pieces.

  3. Stephen Karlson Says:

    Those showplace camps with prominent prisoners turned out to be real, fortunately for your father in law (and for Pastor Bonhoeffer, who was at another such camp) and detailing the 110 CAV and the like to check them out more productive than looking for that redoubt, which turned out to be an intelligence estimate gone wrong. I’m not surprised that after overruning Ohrdruf and Dachau the Cav might have had little patience with spiffy looking officers.

  4. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Jerzy’s son corrects my rendering of the bloody uniform moment. The German was wearing a gray uniform; Jerzy looked at him and suddenly saw two vertical red lines on his chest and his first thought was “He’s been promoted!”

    One other story:

    The prisoners were allowed to put on a play. It was by George Bernard Shaw, but K. can’t remember which play of his.

    Afterwards, the German who commanded the camp, who attended the performance with his son, said to the prisoner who directed the play: “Thank you. This is the only place in Germany where my son and I can see a Shaw play.”

  5. Stephen Karlson Says:

    First they came for the theaters, and the Kommandant was too much the careerist to speak up? And at war’s end arranged himself a prison billet and hopes that he’d be captured by the Western Allies?

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