|Stalag VII A: Oral history|
A Real Character
My brother Melvin (Mel) Tiedemann died several years ago, and he did not leave any written records of his memories of his time at Moosburg or Rosenheim. I do remember we got a V-mail or two (from Rosenheim, I think), but those were not preserved. Let me give you here what I remember from his memories as told to me at various times. I'll start from when he was captured.
He was in the 36th Division, and went into action during the push through Rome. (Mel was a character, and he swore that he slept in Count Ciano's silk-sheeted bed in his muddy combat boots!) He landed in southern France and got as far as Lyon. On patrol in August (on his birthday, ironically enough) he was returning to his lines when he sprained his ankle and couldn't walk. He lay down and "played possum" when a Wehrmacht patrol came by, but when he got prodded by a rifle barrel, he opened his eyes and said "Wie gehts?" As I said, he was a character. Well, the action was back and forth for a while, so he and his captors took refuge in a small French farmhouse. He was sitting on a stool in the kitchen, and when the old man of the place came to the door from the adjacent barn, he got up and gave him the chair. As he walked over toward the door, a shell (American? German?) came through the wall and took the old man's leg off! Eventually the Wehrmacht won the day, and Mel was taken off to a train and shipped to the Munich area. During one of the stops, while they were outside doing some digging at the orders of the commanding officer, a Messerschmitt flew over, and my brother, the character, aimed his shovel like a tommy gun and went "ack-ack-ack-ack." He said one of the officers blew his top and was ranting and raving; he thought he was about to be shot, but fortunately the train was about to restart, so he got back on board.
I'm pretty sure he was sent to Moosburg first, and I don't know for how long, but was moved to Rosenheim, where he stayed until the American troops appeared, in April, I think. It was at Rosenheim, I'm fairly sure, that he got to know one of the elderly guards, Herr Huber. Mel said he was a really nice old man, who was helpful,even letting Mel go down into town to buy strings for his mandola (I don't know where Mel acquired that instrument, but he brought it home and had it for many years after the war). He was a cook at the camp, and said he got very tired of cabbage soup, but he was aware that the Americans at the camp were treated relatively well, as the camp personnel knew by then that the U.S. troops were going to be the ones who got there first (he said the Russians were not treated very well).
When the camp was liberated, Mel and a fellow prisoner looted the camp commander's office, took his car and all his liquor, and headed for Le Havre. They made it in about a week, bluffing and bribing their way with cognac and wine, which got them on board a troop ship and home within about three weeks, as opposed to the months it would have taken to go through regulation processing. (Yes, he was a real character.)
After the war he wrote to and sent food and clothing to Herr Huber for several years. He and his wife took a trip to Italy, in the 1960's I believe, to visit Alma's Italian relatives, and stopped by Rosenheim to visit Huber's family - the old man had died several years prior. He said it was so moving to go through Huber's memorabilia and find a picture of our "Grandma T" that he had given him at the camp. (She - Adelheide Rademacher, and our grandfather, Hermann Tiedemann, emigrated to the U.S. in about 1880, separately, married in New York, and lived in New Jersey. Hermann died in 1900, when my father was 10. Grandma T lived to be 95, and we still carry on her tradition of those superb pfannkuchen that she served for breakfast (or any time, really).
I will try to see if there are any 36th Division members who were at Moosburg with Mel, and if so, ask if they have any memories to contribute. Mel was a little older than the average GI (around 30 in '44, which is why the 36th wouldn't let him transfer to the paratroops [!] - he was too old).
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