60-YEAR GERMAN PENPAL
Co E 272nd Inf Rgt.
During World War 11 I was a 19 year old soldier serving as a rifleman in
the 272nd. Regiment, Fighting 69th. Infantry Division. Our battle zone
would take us to Nessa, Germany, near Zeitz-Weissenfels. During our
thirty day stay I met Bolek, a six year old Polish displaced boy who
lived with his mother as a domestic with a German family across the
street from our billet. Irving Schaffer, prior to enlistment, was a
tailor and made a U.S. Army uniform for Bolek. He also made a American
flag which flew from our billet.
My first letter from Ilse Hietzschold reached my home in Water Mill, New
York, in 1947. I responded to that letter and we have corresponded for
sixty years. In past years I had sent packages and photos of my family
to Ilse and she sent me articles about her family in East Germany.
I have been back to East Germany several times since 1945. During those
sixty years Ilse and I never made contact but we almost met on one tour
but she was given false information by German officials.
On April 16, 2005, Forty members of our association would return for our
five year annual meet with the Russian veterans in Torgau on the Elbe
River. We had made contact with the Soviet Army on April 25, 1945.
The Weissenfel's Museum had many artifacts of our division and we made a
visit to that museum. Ilse had seen my photo and a article about the
in the Weissenfel's newspaper. She contacted several German officials to
determine the location of our group the next day. They advised her we
would be at the Leipzig Museum. Upon our arrival I had seen this blonde
German woman near our group and as I walked past her she handed me a
photo of my wife and I. I then instantly knew that it was Ilse. We
hugged and kissed and I felt like I was in heaven. It was a complete
surprise to me meeting my pen pal after all those sixty years. The
German media was present and taped our joyful meeting in Leipzig.
Ilse and I had lunch with the media and I was then interviewed by them.
Ilse was to accompany me for five hours. She then had to take the train
back to Weissenfels. Our group would leave the museum to a public forum
with the local residents of Leipzig.