Letters to a Lost Soldier: American Red Cross feeds prisoners of war in Germany

Dear Daddy,
(I originally wrote in March, 1945) The American Red Cross knows why you are Missing in Action. You were captured at the Battle of Metz in France on November 4, 1944. The Nazis sent you and other soldiers from Patton’s Third Army to Berlin, Germany in box cars. You were incarcerated in Stalag 2A in Neubrandenburg, Mecklenburg, north of Berlin as Prisoners of War.
The American Red Cross said that they have been trying to locate you as of this date, but you and 18 other Jewish American GI’s were removed from the POW camp and assigned to a Work Kommando, called Zackow 92/VI. The segregation of Jewish prisoners is against the Geneva Convention.
Hitler considers Jews to be a separate race. I thought we were Caucasians. You and the other soldiers were instructed by the US Army to give only your name, rank and serial number, but the German Red Cross said they needed to know your religion for burial purposes in case you died.
They reported Jewish soldiers to the Gestapo and segregated you from the other American POWs. Able bodied men were sent to do slave labor work outside of the POW camp. Bepa said it’s amazing that you are considered able bodied at age 37 after being diagnosed with a heart murmur as a child. He couldn’t believe that you passed your induction physical exam and were classified 1-A.
He was speechless when you, a Chicago native, completed basic training with a marksmanship medal award. Prisoners of War are entitled to write letters home under the Geneva Convention and to receive letters and packages from home. We have not received word from you because you left Stalag 2A.
The Red Cross said that you are probably better off outside of the POW camp because of the overcrowded conditions there. You should receive Red Cross packages if you are required to perform work outside of the camp. You can’t work on an empty stomach. I hope you are getting enough to eat and aren’t working too hard. We pray that you are still alive because Hitler issued orders for Jewish POWs to die.
The American Red Cross said that Russian POWs have been killed, not Americans POWs. Since you spoke on short wave radio saying the guards are treating you well, we hope the guards think the war is coming to an end and they are afraid of being punished. The guards know they aren’t the victors, are worried about their own necks and don’t want to be hanged as war criminals.
The Red Cross sends packages of food, cigarettes, soap and clothing. We told the Red Cross lady that you don’t smoke and she said the cigarettes are as good as gold and can be traded for more food. We will send more packages to you with food and cigarettes when we know the address of the labor camp. I’m ready to mail the letters I have been writing and saving since the government said you were Missing in Action.
The War Department has not yet told us you are a Prisoner of War. Is it like being in jail, Daddy? I heard a song: “Toot, toot, tootsie goodbye, toot, toot, tootsie don’t cry. The choo-choo train that takes me away from you, how sad it makes me. Watch for the mail, I’ll never fail. If you don’t get a letter then you’ll know I’m in jail.”
I hope a labor camp is not like being in jail or a concentration camp. Mommy says that convicts here get three square meals a day and clean sheets. Escaped ex-Prisoners of War in Nazi Germany report eating bread baked with sawdust and drinking watery potato soup with bugs. One man said that Spam from the Red Cross tastes good when you’re hungry. I will pray harder that the war ends soon. I hope you are able to write to us that you are OK and tell us what you need and want.
I love you, Daddy, and I want you to be safe and well.