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German prisoner ID tag issued to a Jewish US soldier and POW

Object | Accession Number: 2011.398.2

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    Brief Narrative
    German prisoner identification tag worn by Norman Fellman, a US soldier imprisoned at Stalag IX-B prisoner of war camp and Berga slave labor camp from January to April 1945. Norman was a scout in Company B, 275th regiment, 70th Infantry Division. On January 6, 1945, the company surrendered to the German Army. Norman, 21, was sent to Stalag IX-B and separated from the other soldiers because he was Jewish. In February, he was transferred to Berga, a subcamp of Buchenwald concentration camp. Norman was forced to remove blast debris from underground tunnels and pack explosive charges. In early April, the prisoners were sent on a death march and were liberated on April 20, by the 90th Infantry Division. Norman was required by the Army to sign an affidavit agreeing not to speak about his slave labor experiences. In 2009, the Army finally acknowledged that US soldiers were incarcerated in a German slave labor camp
    use:  1945 January-1945 April
    use: Berga (Concentration camp); Berga am Elster (Thuringia, Germany)
    use: Stalag IX B; Bad Orb (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Norman and Ruth Fellman
    front, top center, engraved : IXB / Nr. 27128
    front, bottom center, engraved : IXB / Nr. 27128 [reverse image from above]
    Subject: Norman Fellman
    Norman Fellman was born on January 27, 1924, in Portsmouth, Virginia, to a Jewish couple, Abraham and Edith Soloman Fellman. Abraham’s family had immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. Abraham, later called Albert, was a merchandise manager at a shoe store and an inventor. Norman had one younger brother, Jared. In the early 1930s, Norman’s family moved to Norfolk.

    The United States entered World War II on December 8, 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor. On June 24, 1943, following his graduation from Augusta Military Academy, Norman was drafted into the US Army. Norman, a private first class, was assigned as a scout in Company B, 275th regiment, 70th Infantry Division. In December 1944, the 275th regiment was deployed to France to provide reinforcements during the Battle of the Bulge. Norman’s regiment was attached to the 45th Infantry Division. While defending Falkenburg Hill in early January 1945, Norman’s company lost contact with the regiment. On January 6, after suffering heavy casualties and going days with no food, Company B surrendered to the German Army. Norman was locked inside a railroad car with at least 70 men. They were given no food or water and had to use a bucket to relieve themselves. After days of travelling at night through Allied bombing attacks, the train arrived at a prisoner of war camp, Stalag IX-B, in Bad Orb, Germany. American prisoners registered the new arrivals and identified everyone as Protestant, although many, including Norman, were not. After about 12 days, the German officers demanded that Jewish prisoners identify themselves. Other prisoners offered to hide Norman’s identity, but he did not want to risk retribution if he was caught. Norman identified himself as Jewish and was moved to a separate barrack.

    In February, Norman and about 350 other prisoners were transported to Berga slave labor camp, a subcamp of Buchenwald concentration camp, in Berga am Elster. This group consisted of Jews and those that the guards considered troublemakers and undesirables. Norman received two meals per day consisting of a small portion of bread made partly of sawdust, a cup of greasy liquid, and ersatz coffee. The guards were SS and regularly beat the prisoners with lengths of rubber hose or rifle butts. As Norman recounted, their goal “was to get the maximum amount of work out of each man before they killed him.” Norman’s work group was assigned to tunnel 11, one of many tunnels being dug into a mountain to create an underground factory. He picked up blast debris after gunpowder explosions in the tunnel and loaded it into mine carts, which were emptied into a nearby river. Norman also had to pack the gunpowder charges used in the tunnels. Norman and the other prisoners would sometimes sabotage their work by mixing dirt into the explosive charges and overloading carts so that they fell into the river. As punishment, the guards beat everyone in the group. In early April, as Allied forces approached the region, Norman and the other prisoners were sent on a death march. While he was marching, the lice bites on Norman’s left leg became infected and then gangrenous. His foot became so swollen that it broke open his boot and he could not walk anymore. He was put onto an overloaded cart of injured and dying prisoners. On April 20, Norman was liberated by the 90th Infantry Division. Norman, who was 6 feet 4 inches tall, weighed 86 pounds. Of the 350 prisoners with Norman, 80 died or were killed at Berga. The military would not admit that US soldiers were held in a slave labor camp and forced Norman to sign an affidavit promising not to speak about his experiences at Berga. Norman was sent to Paris, France, and then Richmond, Virginia to recuperate.

    On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. In September, Norman was discharged. He was awarded a Bronze Star and several other service medals. He enrolled in and received a degree from the University of Virginia. On December 31, 1949, Norman married Ruth Faust. He worked at a shoe factory and later became a travelling shoe salesman. The couple had three children. In 1966, Norman opened a shoe store in Union, New Jersey. Norman served as an auxiliary police officer in Livingston, New Jersey. For nearly fifty years, Norman never talked about his experiences and most people did not even know he had been in the service. It was not until he attended a 50 year reunion with other Berga survivors that he began to talk about them. He joined a POW group at the local VA, became a veteran’s advocate, and volunteered regularly at a Veteran’s hospital with his therapy dog. In 2009, the US Army finally acknowledged that US soldiers had been imprisoned in a German slave labor camp. Norman, 90, died on May 7, 2014.

    Physical Details

    Identifying Artifacts
    Physical Description
    Rectangular, dark silver colored metal tag with rounded corners and 5 horizontal slits cut out across the center. The same text and numbers are stamped over 3 etched lines on the top and bottom in mirror image. There are circular holes in 3 corners.
    overall: Height: 1.625 inches (4.128 cm) | Width: 2.375 inches (6.032 cm)
    overall : metal

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The ID tag was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2011 by Norman and Ruth Fellman.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2024-02-21 07:11:17
    This page:

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