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Oral history interview with Henry Birnbrey

Oral History | Accession Number: 2015.399.1 | RG Number: RG-50.030.0847

Henry Birnbrey (né Chaim Birnbrey), born on November 29, 1923 in Dortmund, Germany, describes being an only child to his parents, Jennie Jacobson and Edmund Birnbrey; his father, who had served in World War I, had a small textile business, and was active in the Reichsbanner (the elite corps of the Social Democratic Party); being evicted from their apartment in the mid 1930s because the landlady did not like Jews; moving across the street to a slum; the neighbor children, who could not be seen playing with Henry so they only played together at night; having to let the non-Jewish maid go; his mother, who suffered from an intestinal condition; attending religious services once a week; attending the German public school for Jews, the Yiddisher Folkshuler, which closed when he got to sixth grade and he then attended a makeshift school; his father having to close his business; being sent on a Kinder transport in April 1938; the arrest of his father on Kristallnacht; the death of his father in February 1939 from a lack of medical attention after he was beat while in custody; how Henry did not receive restitution because the Germans had misspelled his father’s name; his mother’s death in September 1939; the emotional difficulty of learning of his parents’ deaths while he was alone in the US; his arrival in New York, where a non-German speaking social worker took him by train to Birmingham, AL; living with a widow for a while and then another family; moving in February 1939 to Atlanta, GA, where he lived with Fanny Asaman and her two children; how the family helped him process the deaths of his parents; attending high school and then Georgia State where he studied accounting; entering into the US Army; being sent to England in February 1944; being part of the 30th Infantry Division and the chief of a half-track, supervising the driver, gunman, and another assistant; going to France and his experiences in combat; the Battle at Mortain; traveling from Normandy to the Netherlands; being in the liberating force for the panhandle in the southern Netherlands circa October 1944; finding a synagogue that was turned into a stable for horses and cleaned it out so they could have Friday evening services; continuing into Germany; participating in the Battle of the Bulge; working as an interpreter at an aluminum plant and salt mine after fighting near Magdeburg; coming across abandoned trains of teenage Jews shipped from Bergen-Belsen with no food or water and left in a field in Farsleben, 6 kilometers from Magdeburg; how there was standing room only in the train cars and half the Jews were dead; the POW camp at Magdeburg and his unit’s job to transfer the Russian POWs to the Russian army; questioning the German POWs; being stationed after the Armistice next to a quarry testing V2 bombs; working as a CICA agent; the end of the war and going home; visiting Dortmund in 1976 and ordering headstones for his parents’ graves; and returning with his children to Dortmund in 2009.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Henry Birnbrey
Ina Navazelskis
interview:  2015 October 22
1 digital file : MPEG-4.
1 digital file : WAV.
Record last modified: 2020-03-26 09:37:49
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