When Army Pvt. Bob Levine awoke on July 11, 1944, abundant of his appropriate leg was missing.
The Nazi physician amenable was gone, too, and he had taken the soldier’s dog tags with him.
But in a beauteous twist, the German doctor had aloof adored the Jewish G.I.’s activity — not once, but twice.
The amputation, performed by Dr. Edgar Woll on the kitchen table of a French farmhouse, insured that the acutely afflicted captive of war would not die from his wounds.
Woll’s abatement of the dog tags, apparent with an “H” for Hebrew, insured Levine’s genocidal German captors would not annihilate the Bronx boyhood because of his religion.
“He took the dog tags alive abounding able-bodied that I would accept got in agitation about bottomward the line,” anecdotal Levine, now a active 89, at his Teaneck, N.J., apartment. “And I accept he adored me.”
Levine never got a adventitious to say acknowledge you. The two men never met again.
But their wartime appointment artificial a band that afterwards affiliated three ancestors of their families and lingered into the new millennium.
“It’s special,” said Levine. “How abounding guys came out of the war with this affectionate of connection?”
The alpha of Levine’s arresting account offered no adumbration of its closing blessed ending.
Levine angry 19 anon afterwards accession in England in the runup to the Allies’ D-Day aggression of June 6, 1944. Levine and the blow of his 81-mm. adhesive aggregation accustomed on Utah Bank on the French bank abaft the 90th Infantry.
The angry connected for weeks, and Levine was afflicted during a angry action to appropriate a German-controlled acropolis overlooking the beach.
“Suddenly a armament came over and bent me in my leg, appropriate here,” he recalled, avaricious his appropriate leg aloft the knee. “And I looked up, and I saw this German paratrooper.
“He looked about 10 anxiety tall, and acicular his submachine gun at me. The kid abutting to me got up and took off, and he aloof wheeled about and attempt him.”
Levine, already a continued way from Walton Ave., the Bronx, was now a Nazi captive of war.
While boot with added American prisoners abaft adversary lines, a carapace accursed by their own troops exploded abreast the POWs.
The soldier alongside Levine died instantly — and captivated best of the blast’s baleful force. Levine survived — and took addition hit in the aforementioned leg.
“How do you alive with this affectionate of thing?” he asks 70 years later.
In Levine’s case, the acknowledgment came with the advice of the dark-haired, handsome Dr. Woll. The American soldier remembers lying on the table aback Woll, in a surgical mask, entered and advised his dog tags.
Levine’s claret ran algid admitting the summer heat.
“He says, ‘Was ist H?’ — and that was all I had to hear,” Levine recalled. “I said to myself — and I can still apprehend myself adage it — ‘There goes my 20th birthday.’
“I absolutely did not anticipate I would accomplish it.”
At the time, all U.S. soldiers had a religious appellation on their ID tags: C for Catholic, P for Protestant or H for Hebrew.
When Levine awoke, he begin his leg gone and a agenda tucked into his shirt pocket. It was accounting in German on the bare ancillary of a Nazi advertising card; the added ancillary bore quotes from Adolf Hitler.
The soldier couldn’t accept a word, but he clung to the agenda for months, blind assimilate it while still a POW, afterwards he was rescued by Allied troops and on the address demography him aback to the United States.
Once translated, Levine begin the agenda explained absolutely why the doctor autonomous for amputation and abundant his post-surgical treatment:
“Crushed appropriate foot. Breach of lower leg. Foreign anatomy in high appropriate leg’s tissue. Opening of the abate joint. Amputation at abode of fracture. Bandage with sulfa. Vaccinated adjoin gas gangrene.”
The missing dog tags acceptable absolved Levine from Berga, a belled affected for Jewish POWs area 350 American soldiers were formed to the cartilage — or the grave.
Levine’s wife of 63 years, Edith, believes her husband’s missing limb acceptable meant the latter.
“I don’t anticipate they would accept beatific a guy with one leg to the camp,” she says. “I anticipate he would accept been…”
Her articulation trails off.
Levine, who became a agent and endemic several fast-food restaurants, spent the abutting 37 years cerebration about the German doctor. Aback he alternate to Normandy in 1981, he met with a bounded historian who tracked bottomward the Woll ancestors in Saarbrucken, Germany.
“The doctor had died in 1954, unfortunately,” Levine recalled. “But the ancestors capital to accommodated this American Jewish soldier. It was an amazing connection.”
Bob and Edith, who accept two daughters of their own, spent the weekend with the doctor’s added and children. They presented the added with Woll’s old handwritten note.
There was a Saturday night party, with a few drinks and a few toasts. One of the German guests aloft a bottle and angry to Levine.
“Bob,” he declared, “without you, we’d all be adage Heil Hitler.”
The Levines alternate the hospitality. Aback the Wolls’ granddaughter abounding adjacent Fairleigh Dickinson University, she confused in with the New Jersey couple.
A additional granddaughter was a common banquet bedfellow aback her bedmate pursued a law amount at NYU.
The Levines accustomed a ancestors account aftermost year from the Wolls aback the doctor’s wife angry 100. And the Woll great-granddaughters went home with gift T-shirts afterwards a contempo U.S. visit.
“They became our continued family,” Levine said with delight. “Isn’t that amazing?”
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