Program on American Soldiers Captured by Nazis in WWII
Press Release · Sunday, February 27, 2005
Washington, DCOn Thursday, May 5, at 5:30 pm, the National Archives will present a special lecture and a documentary film screening about American soldiers in World War II who were captured and held prisoner by the Nazis. Journalist and historian Roger Cohen will discuss his book, Soldiers and Slaves: American POW's Trapped by the Nazi's Final Gamble (A.A. Knopf, 2005). A recent article by Cohen, "The Lost Soldiers of Stalag IX-B," was featured in the February 27, 2005, New York Times Magazine. Following Cohen's book signing in the McGowan Theater lobby, Grace Guggenheim will introduce the documentary film, Berga: Soldiers of Another War (2003, 85 min.). This documentary was written and directed by her father, the late Charles Guggenheim. The lecture and film screening will be held in the William G. McGowan Theater. This event is free and open to the public. Reservations are recommended via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone (202-501-5000 before April 15, then use 202-357-5000 thereafter). The National Archives is located on the National Mall on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW. Spring hours are 10 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. daily.
Both the book and the film tell the story of American GIs captured during WW II Battle of the Bulge who were "classified" as Jewish by German captors, sent to a slave labor camp, and subjected to Nazi Holocaust atrocities. Berga: Soldiers of Another War is the final work in the long and distinguished career of the late documentary filmmaker Charles Guggenheim. The four-time Academy Award-winner wrote and directed the film, and because of his personal connection to the story, also narrated the film in the first person. The film is a production of Guggenheim Productions in Washington, DC.
Background Thousands of American GIs, including soldiers in Guggenheim’s 106th Infantry Division, were captured by the Nazis during the Battle of the Bulge. Those "identified" as being Jewish–along with fellow GIs who "looked Jewish" or had "Jewish sounding" last names–were selected to fulfill a quota and shipped off to a satellite of the notorious concentration camp at Buchenwald, where they suffered harrowing atrocities as slave laborers. Guggenheim, who had remained stateside with a debilitating infection during the final months of the war carried with him a personal and moral obligation for more than 50 years to tell this untold story for his comrades who did not return, and for those who have lived with the horror of their experience. While completing the film, Guggenheim faced a heroic battle of his own with terminal cancer. He died six weeks after the film was finished.
Uncovering the Story After the war, Guggenheim tried to locate a friend from the 106th Division, but discovered he had died in captivity in a German salt mine. The salt mine turned out to be the slave labor camp at Berga, a small town in East Germany, which the filmmaker confirmed in War Crimes Trial documents located at the National Archives in Washington, DC. "The idea of this happening, the suggestion of an American soldier persecuted for being Jewish or looking Jewish or otherwise undesirable, never left my mind," said Guggenheim. After two-and-a-half years of extensive research, Guggenheim found 124 survivors and witnesses. Forty agreed to be interviewed. Many revealed that they had repressed their memories for over 50 years and never talked about their imprisonment, not even to spouses and family members. Production Credits Charles Guggenheim received 12 Academy Award nominations and won 4 Oscars for his films Nine From Little Rock, Robert Kennedy Remembered, The Johnstown Flood, and A Time for Justice. He also won the George Foster Peabody Award. Berga: Soldiers of Another War is written, directed and narrated by Charles Guggenheim and produced by Grace Guggenheim.
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For press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at 202-501-5526.
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