A recent Sunday morning at Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion in Park Heights found some of Baltimore’s bravest Jews and their spouses enjoying a hearty breakfast of bagels and lox with rugelach for dessert. But they weren’t there only for the food. The group of 30 people, many of whom were World War II veterans, had come to hear a presentation by one of their own — 88-year-old Aaron Seiden, a recipient of two purple hearts.
“Six months ago,” said Seiden, smiling, “my wife and I were filling out our bucket list. I said to her [Bernice], ‘Before you kick the bucket, I think you should see Paris. This is a good time to go.’ We decided to go on a Viking River Cruise to Paris and Normandy.”
Seiden’s presentation to members of the Paul D. Savanuck/Shaarei Zion Memorial Post No. 888 of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America described some of the trip’s highlights, especially the opportunities the trip afforded him to revisit his memories of fighting at Omaha Beach in Normandy during World War II.
“When I landed there it was June 19th , and I was five days short of my 19th birthday,” he said. “I was with the 83rd Infantry Division, 101st Airborne. When I saw Omaha Beach again, I didn’t even recognize it.”
Seiden told the audience about his experiences while on duty in Normandy. He was wounded there and sent to England for medical care.
“It was the first time I ever flew in an airplane,” he said.
After being hospitalized for approx-imately six weeks, Seiden was sent back to join his unit. By that time, the unit had moved to Germany.
“We took Brest [Germany] and then went to Luxemburg for some rest and relaxation for a week,” he said.
Then, Seiden’s unit traveled into the Black Forest in southwestern Germany. It was about a week before Christmas, 1944, when he was wounded again. This time, a severe chest wound sent him back to the U.S. — for good.
Seiden’s tour also took him to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Omaha Beach. There, he hoped to find the graves of fellow Jewish servicemen from the 83rd Division. Seidman succeeded in finding 14 Jewish headstones. The last one he found was that of Lawrence Slutzner, a member of his own division.
“I said kaddish and then asked people on the tour if they had any paper,” he said. Seidman thought that by recording the names, ranks and death dates of these veterans, he might be able to provide information to their families in the U.S. Many of these families, said Seidman, had no way of knowing where their relatives were buried.
“When I came back to the states, I asked our rabbi if we could honor them [the soldiers] by reading their names on Memorial Day,” he said. Seidmen’s rabbi agreed. “We will probably do it again next year. I [also] wanted to share them [the names] with you. I had the satisfaction of doing a mitzvah.”
The following are the Jewish veterans whose graves Seiden found in the cemetery near Omaha Beach:
• Cpl. Ed Sachs, Engineer Battalion, died 8/13/45
• T/4 (Technician Fourth Grade) Paul Mayer, 16th Medical Company, 12/30/44
• Staff Sgt. Szymon Friedman, 303rd Bomb Group 6/12/44
• 2nd Lt. Sid Scheiman, 92nd Bomb Group, 2/4/44
• Pvt. Jack Barshak, 979th Signal Corps,11/24/44
• Pvt. Lawrence Slutzner, 83rd Division, 329th Infantry, 7/28/44
• Pfc. Felix Taylor, 119th Infantry, 30th Division, 7/14/44
• Pvt. Efraim M. Loew, 121st Infantry, 8th Division, 7/8/44
• 1st Lt. George Roth, 100th Bomb Group, 6/24/44
• Pvt. Al Kasowsky, 19th Infantry, 9th Division, 7/18/44
• Pvt. Jack Sonnenreich, 60th Infantry, 4th Division, 7/17/44
• 1st Lt. Jeans Spector, 119th Infantry, 30th Division, 8/24/44
• Technical Sgt. Joseph Mindelsohn, 44th Bomb Group, 1/14/44
• Technical Sgt. Elmer Posner, 322nd Bomb Group, 7/8/44
Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter — email@example.com