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July 31, 2015 / 15 Av, 5775
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Fighting In The South Pacific

Eli Freundlich

Eli Freundlich

On Rosh Hashanah the army would drive all the Jewish guys to a hospital where they held services. The problem was they’d drive them back and forth on Rosh Hashanah – both days. I managed to wangle a pass from the chaplain to let me stay at the hospital for those 2 days. The following year, however, they held services in two different hospitals. So a pass to one of them wouldn’t help. I had to make a decision then. Should I stay on base and be forced to mechalel yom tov and have no prayers or take the truck ride? I opted for the truck ride. At the end, I don’t think I was mechalelanything because it was a group ride. The driver was going anyway, not stopping and starting just for me. But I’m not a rabbi so I can’t say for sure. It just seemed the right thing for me to do. So that was my “soul” career in the army. Oh yes, I did try getting together a minyan for Friday nights but the most I could gather were 9 men. So that didn’t work out.

On furlough in Brooklyn

I didn’t feel any anti Semitism. There was one guy, I called him the Mule Skinner – he was a huge southerner with bulging muscles. He would make anti-black remarks all the time. Those were my liberal days when I defended the blacks so I always came back to him with a retort. One time I could see the veins bulging in this forehead, he was so mad, but he never laid a hand on me. He would often say in his southern drawl – “Mah minister always says – anybody who messes with the People of the Book, will come to no good end.”

After V-J Day, I went to Hiroshima. The devastation was complete. I could see from one end to the other. There were just a few walls of one building left standing in the entire city. After that we were shipped back to the States via San Francisco and from there to Boro Park. I didn’t remain home too long because I soon enlisted with the Irgun to fight for Palestine. But that’s another story.

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My name is Eli Freundlich. I was 18 and had just graduated Torah Voddath in Williamsburg. America had entered the war a few years before. I wanted to be drafted so was happy when I received my notice. It was July 1943 – July 27, 1943 to be exact – when I was sworn into the American Army.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/fighting-in-the-south-pacific/2012/09/14/

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