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July 28, 2014 / 1 Av, 5774
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The Ultimate Revenge: Erwin Weinberg Fights Back Against the Nazis

Cpl Erwin Weinberg a"h

Cpl Erwin Weinberg a"h

What was it like working with Major Powell?

There was a great deal of mutual respect and they maintained a relationship for many years after the war. In fact, once our family was in Washington and spent a very pleasant half hour in his chambers in the Supreme Court Building while he reminisced about his war-time days and his relationship with my father. He even allowed me to take some pictures with my children around him and on his lap. He then arranged a quick pass into the Supreme Court hearing room where oral arguments were in progress. The sense of power and dignity in the courtroom was tangible and the whole visit was memorable.

Mr. Weinberg and his family at his 90th birthday celebration

Mr. Weinberg and his family at his 90th birthday celebration

It seems that Powell respected my father’s religious observance. Corporal Weinberg once needed a nine-day pass in order to celebrate a kosher Pesach with his uncle and family in Manchester. The war was raging and the Army was not granting extended furloughs to active members at that time. Powell realized the significance of the holiday observance and judged that the corporal could be spared for the week or so he would be away. He then issued orders for my father to travel from near London to Manchester and remain there for nine days to see to official Army business. No furlough was required at all.

Your father’s German was valuable to him during the war.

The fact that he was a German native paid off in several respects. He served as a translator to Major Powell as they followed the advancing Allied line through a vanquished Germany, and he was able to easily translate certain German documents that came into Allied hands. Occasionally he was called upon to interrogate German POW’s.

Your father was praised for helping the U.S. Army bomb some key points in Germany. Can you elaborate on that?

Being familiar with German geography, especially the layout of his hometown, Fulda, he was able to provide information that facilitated the bombing of a ball-bearing manufacturer and rubber plant.

He pointed to the sites on reconnaissance photos he was shown. A few days later he was shown subsequent pictures — to his great satisfaction, he saw that the factories were destroyed.

His comrades were sufficiently impressed to the extent that he was written up in a 1945 issue of the Air Force Magazine in an article titled “The Private Air Force of Cpl. Weinberg.”

Erwin Weinberg

Erwin Weinberg

Was he proud or resentful of being drafted?

It was very cathartic for him; after suffering so, and having his life permanently disrupted, he could see the enemy of our people defeated before his own eyes even though he was not involved directly in any hostile action, other than interrogating German prisoners. Our family is proud of the legacy of his time in the Army. His memorabilia from this time were showcased in an exhibit called, “Contributions from the Community: American Jews in the Second World War,” at the Judaica Museum of the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale. They also comprise a permanent exhibit in the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park, featuring European refugees who served in the US Military during World War II.

Did he experience any anti-Semitism?

Yes. My father put on his tefillin daily and often other soldiers made fun of him asking if he was taking his blood pressure. One as he moved through Germany his tefillin were stolen.

Was he able to stay religious in the army?

The Joint made sure that he always had kosher food as they did for all observant members of the armed forces. He always maintained his yiddishkeit and in fact he even once walked 20 miles to hear shofar blowing on Rosh Hashanah because he could not get a release to travel on Erev Yom Tov.

What was his state of mind after returning home?

He was able to get many of his personal issues out of his system by serving in the military. He had no sympathy whatsoever for the Germans.

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