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November 9, 2011 By:
Redemption for Vet Who Saw War's Horrors
My husband, Don Greenbaum, 86 and still going strong, served in World War II as a forward observer, operating on the front lines.
While he was in Colmar, France, a friend and fellow Wynnefield boy, Sidney Geller, died alongside him while they were on the battlefield.
Don was devastated by the loss and, throughout the war, he was haunted by that memory. When the war ended and Don returned home to Wynnefield, he couldn't bring himself to call Sidney's parents, since he had survived and their son had not. Having witnessed the horrors of the war at a young age, he could not emotionally handle such a conversation.
Fast forward to about 10 years ago, when we were invited to a birthday party at a home in Cherry Hill, N.J. As fate would have it, it was the home of our friend's son-in-law, whose name was Sidney Geller.
Don asked him if he was related to someone who had lost his life in World War II. The young man said that it was his uncle and that he was named for him. After all those years, at last Don was able to talk about it with the nephew of the deceased. It was an overwhelming and emotional meeting, and the young Sidney called his family to relate the story.
After helping to defeat the Nazis in Cologne, Greenbaum posed with a German flag.
In April of this year, as the president of the Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation, I was greeting recipients at our Child Care Award event. One of the recipients was signing her name and that of her husband's on our labels. There it was again: Her husband was named Sidney Geller, another nephew of my husband's deceased friend. This man wanted to know all the details of his uncle's death; he, too, called his family to relate the story. Redemption at last! A burden of all those years finally lifted after the coincidence of meeting two nephews of a young man who lost his life in battle.
Don earned a Purple Heart in Germany on Nov. 9, 1944, and after his release from an army hospital, fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Under the command of General George Patton's Third Army, he and the troops in his divisions (283rd Field Artillery Battalion) were among the first Americans to liberate Dachau concentration camp.
Don has spoken at Gratz College, at public schools and at synagogues about his experiences. The Shoah Foundation videotaped him, telling his story of being a liberator and how that experience has changed his life.
Don's stories will live on and they must be told for generations to come. They never should be forgotten. His challenges throughout the war, including losing his friend Sidney, have taught him to appreciate all the wonderful little blessings in life.