Dear Daddy,

(I originally wrote in March, 1945) We were at the dining room table when the phone rang. Mommy accepted a collect call from a man in Kentucky who said he heard your voice on a shortwave radio broadcast. Your message was for Dorothy Clamage in Chicago. He said you are a Prisoner of War in Nazi Germany and are getting enough to eat from the guards. Mommy almost dropped the phone. She was shaking and crying. “He must have had a gun pointed to his head,” said Bepa. “Oy, a Jew imprisoned in Nazi Germany.”

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Mimi thought the call was from her mother Yetta’s in-laws in Kentucky who Mommy visited when she was a child. No, the caller from Kentucky is not related; he is a Good Samaritan, who also mailed a postcard to us in case he couldn’t reach Mommy by phone.

Mommy called Uncle Eddie and asked him to contact the War Department and the Red Cross for more information. We cried tears of joy. Your last letter home was addressed to Dorothy “Clametz” and Uncle Eddie thinks you might have been captured in Metz, France. He wants to know how you ended up a prisoner in Germany.

The Red Cross sends packages to the POW camps, but there are conflicting reports about some GI’s playing sports like baseball and basketball and are well fed, yet other reports say that GI’s are living in crowded conditions, sharing food parcels and barely getting enough to eat.

I cannot believe you are in a prison camp, Daddy. I hope it’s not like the concentration camps in the newsreels where prisoners are shown behind barbed wire fences. The Allies are liberating those camps and I hope they liberate the POW camps, too.

I wanted to run around the neighborhood and tell everyone you are alive, but Mommy said to wait until Uncle Eddie makes inquiries.

We told the telephone man who collects the monthly payment and always asks, “Any news Ma’am?” I had to tell my teacher, who informed the principal, who announced to the whole school at assembly you are a prisoner. Many of us cried.

Uncle Eddie is optimistic that the war will end soon. Since he is a veteran of World War I and keeps up with the news, he thinks events are leading up to an Allied victory, which the Nazis fear. Some commanders have disobeyed Hitler’s orders, such as General von Choltitz refusing to burn Paris to the ground. “The guards want to save their own necks.” I decided to write a letter to President Roosevelt for information about your location and Mimi said I couldn’t. I contradicted her (Mommy’s favorite word) to remind her that I have freedom of speech.

My teacher, Mrs. Unell, has been checking my letters to you for misspelled words and too many repetitions and helped me write to the President. She suggested I create a story for you instead of a poem because I couldn’t figure out how to make the words rhyme. Here is my first draft: “Greetings,” Uncle Sam wrote to you after Pearl Harbor. You sent a letter from boot camp before shipping overseas. “Be a good girl while I’m away, Maxine.” We mailed letters and packages to your APO address, until they came back stamped “Return to Sender - Missing in Action.” Mom requested the War Department: “Please don’t return packages; give them to another GI.” They answered: “It’s against government regulations.” I asked Santa to look for you while travelling. “Could you bring him home? I’ll be very good.”

I searched for your face during the Newsreels at the movies. Could a grown man be missing? I thought only children got lost. A shortwave radio operator phoned and wrote: “Your father is alive; he says he’s being treated well and getting enough food.” Red Cross food. You are a Prisoner of War in Nazi Germany. We are waiting for more news.

This is how I want the story to end, Daddy: We received another telegram. You are coming home. I started being good.

Love,
Maxine
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