The Toll of War

No one likes war. My dad was born during WWI and survived as a member of the US Army in WWII Germany. He is 94 years old as of this month and has rarely spoken of his experiences – especially about the liberation of the concentration camps. Although it was not one of the major death camps, the horrors were just as real in the smaller camps. He took pictures of mass graves and when he did talk to me about the war, it was because I was reading about WWII Germany and the concentration camps. He would say that pictures only capture part of the war. You can’t capture the smell of death that lingered in the air.

I first scrapbooked his photos of the destruction of the city of Frankfurt.

“When you go forth to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” ~Deuteronomy 20:1


I spent the night in Frankfurt last November following a trip to the Holy Land. Because of flight problems, Lufthansa put us up at the Sheraton hotel at the airport. It is all very modern and the hospitality was wonderful but the scars of war can last for generations.

My dad took these pictures in 1945 of the destruction in Frankfurt as his unit made its way through the city. Not much was left of St. Bartholomew Cathedral. Devastation was widespread.

“. . . therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be destroyed.” ~ Hosea 10:14

His unit headed to the little town of Wetzlar where he spent several months. There, he made friends with a number of German children. They followed him everywhere and called him the Pied Piper.

“No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth.” ~ 3 John 1:4

From Wetzlar, he wrote a v-mail home to family.

“For I wrote you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.” ~ 2 Corinthians 2:4

A landmark in Wetzlar was the bleistift or pencil. It was actually a tower that looked like a pencil, thus the name.

“Remove not the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.” ~ Proverbs 22:28

After over 60 years, my dad still remembered the names of most of the children. He told of a birthday party where the cake was very bland. Sugar was a scarcity at the end of the war. At the end of the party, the elder brother comes walking in. He had been taken prisoner after the war and had just been released. My dad’s back was to the door, but he turned around to see the man when the children began to snicker and giggle.

Most of the photos taken with his camera were of the children, but there is one of him at the foot of Bleistift taken by a young girl named Liselotte.

Then there was the man who was struggling to provide for his family during the war. My mom said that she used to send clothes that my oldest sister had outgrown for their little girl who was just a little younger.

“Give of your bread to the hungry, and of your clothing to the naked. Give all your surplus to charity, and do not let your eye begrudge the gift when you made it.” ~ Tobit 4:16

As my sister outgrew clothes, my mom would mail them to this family. My dad lived with this particular family and had a number of stories to tell about the time he was there.

I also learned about two other towns my dad visited. One was Michelstadt, far south of Frankfurt. The other was Braunfels, just a short distance from Wetzlar.

In Braunfels was a castle that he visited while on leave.

New Braunfels, TX – south of Austin and north of San Antonio – was actually founded by the Braunfels family who lived in this castle.

Daddy finally returned home in 1946. He had done his part to bring about justice for those imprisoned in the death camps.

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;” ~Isaiah 61:1



About Theresa Sismilich

Beloved Daughter of the Father, Catholic writer, Artist, Poet, Advocate for Life and proud Gramma
This entry was posted in Faithbooking, Family, Heritage, WWII. Bookmark the permalink.

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