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A Moment In Life
By Michael Librach
Copyright 2001 Michael Librach
An essay about the writer's true experiences during World War II in a prisoner-of-war camp.


A very hot day in Stalag 7A, in Krems in Austria. After several weeks of hunger in temporary camps in France, we have reached the place where we will be "les prisonniers de guerre". The anxiety was rampant, what will it be like, how will they treat us???

We were a company of Poles from France, will they shoot us right away. No, it seems that in the camp there were Polish soldiers from the Polish campaign in 1939. So maybe we will be here for a while as well.

The next morning, after we have been counted and recounted and given a piece of rye bread, we were sent to a large room with long tables at which sat some polish prisoners from the campaign of 1939. We were considered as French Prisoners, and we were there to give them all the data on us. Our hosts have taken 2 million prisoners in the last days of the French campaign; it didn’t seem to us very logical that they must know our names, education, etc.etc.

But they were the guards, we were the prisoners, so there will be no discussion.

The line moved slow. When I reached a free investigator, sat down next to him(there were no her’s) to answer all kinds of questions. Name, age, family members, place of birth, languages spoken and so on.

And now, he turned to me " what is your religion?"

I answered " I am a Jew". He seemed somewhat puzzled. "do you want me to put it down like that?". Here was the moment. The man was willing to help me to conceal my crime of being Jewish. What shall I do. The only thought I had was "what would happen to my people would happen to me, I cannot deny them" I said "Yes, please put down  Jewish".

More questions were asked and answered, and we were soon at the end of the questionnaire. At this moment a young German non-com was passing by and looked over the shoulder of my clerk. He noted the languages:" I need this man in the office" (that sounded like an easy job). He took my card and took me to the front of the line where another German soldier was checking the cards. He said " I am taking this man, I need him in the office"

The man looks at my card: - " Oh no, this cannot be, this is a Jew."And with a great flourish he stamps right across my identity card the word