Befriending a Nazi
My grandfather, Tommy Rochelle, served in WWII. Like most able-bodied young men of his generation, he went overseas to fight Hitler’s fascist threat to the world.
In the 1930s and 40s, Grandpa Tommy worked in the radio business as a DJ, so his army commanders put him in the communications department. He wasn’t quite an action hero, but he was near the front lines helping to receive messages from the officers to the infantry units.
One night alone on the German front, he walked out of his comms tent and looked up directly into the bright fearful eyes of a Nazi soldier.
They were both shocked.
Both full of fear seeing the enemy face-to-face.
The Nazi soldier could hardly speak English, and my grandfather knew little German. As each man realized it was just the two of them, the situation began to cool down. It was cold out, and Tommy could tell that the man had been outdoors for sometime.
What else could he do?
He simply invited the German into his tent for a warm cup of coffee and a smoke. It was getting late. There were several empty bunks in the tent and my grandfather offered him a place to lay his head.
The next morning Grandpa Tommy called his company commander, proudly exclaiming, “I have captured a Nazi, sir!” the German man sleeping peacefully nearby. The commander asked, “How many, Pvt. Rochelle?”
Clearly it was not a strategic victory for the Allied Forces.
After a few days of rest and warm meals, the German parted ways with the handful of American radio engineers on the front. Before leaving, they traded a few things as tokens of their brief friendship. All these decades later, my mother & uncle still have the knife & hat that the Nazi gave to my grandfather, as physical proof of their late beloved father’s favorite late night drinking story in his older years.