back to the 60th anniversary of my Army years...
Merrill Barracks...Nurenburg, Germany.
a retrospective in history.
history in a capsule....in one building.
SS soldiers for Hitler and Nazi Germany
then Holocaust victims
then the American Army
When I started writing this memoir for my childern...I did some preliminary research on the Merrill Barracks where I was stationed in Nurenberg in 1955...before transferring to Armed Forces Radio in Frankfurt.
I never intended to write didactic or moral observations but I’ve been thinking about those barracks lately and their history....plus the fact that Hitler and his henchmen were always in Nurenberg where the huge Nazi party rallies were held...orchestrated by the incomparable Leni Riefenstahl whose work at the torch laden trooper marching rallies have gone into history (despite their subject matter) as probably the most successful propaganda films ever made.
“The Merrell Barracks is located just west of the parade ground. Originally known as the SS Kaserne (barracks), it housed the SS Signals School during the war, and its design was supervised by Heinrich Himmler himself.” (I never knew that).
This and other write-ups about the barracks seem not to mention (or I failed in my search) about the victims of nearby concentration camps who, when released, were sent to Merrell Barracks where they were housed...fed...and treated medically.
The most well known camp was “Flossenbürg” and it was also one of the largest.
So without beleaguering the point I’m trying to make here:
Item 1: The SS WERE housed in these barracks during the war... and despite the reference as “signal corps” I don’t think anyone in their right mind would think...because they were SS soldiers...they would not be much different than the most brutal of their comrades in carrying out Hitler’s extermination policies. I make no apology for saying that.
Item 2: Guess who PRIMARILY replaced the defeated SS soldiers in the Merrell Barracks?
The very refugees they are responsible for incarnating and eliminating!
If that’s not a dichotomy of historical proportions I’ve never seen one.
I wasn’t aware while living there for my months before transferring to AFN of that history.
Looking back on it now I feel...strange...I guess and a bit sad that we were not told of the historical significance while we were housed there. It almost makes our New Years eve drinking and parting in 1955 appear as some kind of blasphemy.
I just thought YOU should know.
It’s a bit like my Cambodia adventure in 1970....driving down the main highway south from Phnom Penh and realizing the soldiers walking with big guns alongside the roadway were “enemy...not friends”. And add to that...being dumb and having my driver stop in a small town for some refreshments and walking closely past (without knowing it until I was told back in the car) a member of the radical sect Khmer Rouge, a sect that would challenge Hitler for brutality in the coming years of the “Killing Fields”! His look gave him away...he would carve out my intestines and cook them for lunch!
I was troubled more about all that back in the states...knowing how many of my NBC News friends (& others) were massacred in Cambodia and I got away.