Getting To Know Us
We hope you will enjoy this periodic column profiling one of our members as a way for congregants to get to know a fellow TEE member.
NORM ENGEL was born in 1925 here in Cleveland where he lived with his parents at 59th and Woodland. At the age of 18, our snow white haired, 6’2” Norm was drafted to serve in the European Theatre during WWII. Sent to Camp Joseph T. Robinson in Little Rock, Arkansas for his “basic training,” he recalls the kind of anti-semitism practiced by those soldiers who never knew any Jews. Norm handled it head on. He asked them if they were thinking they were going to fight each other or the Germans? That seemed to put the proper perspective in place. After completing his training, he and his outfit were sent, by troop ship, to Le Havre, France. Eventually, his outfit was sent to Belgium, Germany and Austria. This included participating in the Battle of the Bulge. Norm was quite clear on his feelings toward the German soldiers. He left little doubt about associating them with the Holocaust and taking out as many as he could. He learned that your mind set was to survive. Norm and his fellow soldiers were in the Infantry’s 86th Division, 342nd Regiment, Company F. His unit was fortunate not to suffer too many casualties. He felt that moving through the farm land was not as dangerous as fighting in the larger cities. He recalled seeing a German plane shot down by an American fighter plane. As they moved through Belgium, Germany and Austria they came across a column of German POWs. An English speaking German officer told Norm that he, the officer, was “sad” to report that “your President has died”. Norm was flabbergasted that the American troops had not been informed of President Roosevelt’s death. He found himself angry at his command and at the German officer for bringing such devastating news. As Norm recounted his experiences during wartime, he realized how he had learned to take care of himself. He recalled that there were about another ten Jewish recruits in his regiment. He enjoyed the friendship with another “Norman” who came from Chicago.
Upon Victory in Europe Day, Norm had become a seasoned combat soldier. War in the Pacific lingered on. Norm’s platoon was informed that they would be sent to Japan to continue fighting there. He was shipped home and then on to California where he boarded a troop ship. As his ship made its way to the Phillipines, word was received that the atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima. He enjoyed time in Manila, but was relieved and joyful to be returning to home and family. Introduced to his wife-to-be by their friends, the Ziffs, Estelle and Norm have three children and have been long time TEE members.
Author’s note: I was uplifted and impressed by Norm’s set of personal and moral commitments toward others. His commitment to “tikun olam” as a Jew is inspiring.
Submitted by Roy Schlachter