August 6, 2015

Mr. Lichtenfeld began his talk with a tribute to the “Greatest Generation”, which is widely recognized as those who lived through the trying times of World War II. More than 16 million served the country during that war, 458,000 of whom gave their life. He then proceeded to ask whether the “Greatest Generation” should also include the 35,500 of our military and supporters who died in Korea, or the 58,000 who perished in Vietnam. Even further, he said, don’t those who served our country during the Cold War, Granada, Lebanon and throughout the Middle East be honored in the same manner.
As a rifleman in WWII, who was captured during the heroic stand known as the “Battle of the Bulge”, Mr. Lichtenfeld saw the greatest struggle against tyranny of all time. He is also a member of only 7,000 of the 144,000 POW’s still living today. In one of the coldest winters in the previous 50 years, he and his fellow soldiers survived unbelievable challenges with a lack of food, lack of proper clothing and coping with constant bombardment. Lack of sleep became one of the real challenges.
It became even worse after his capture by the Germans. His first emotions included great humiliation and shock. Among the worst feelings he described was the fear that your family would never know if you were alive or not, and that you may never see each other again. As a Jew, the likelihood of survival was even more tenuous.
The prisoners were separated in the camp according to their nationality. At one point, the American contingent was lined up and anyone who was Jewish was asked to step forward. In keeping with orders from their commanders, none of the soldiers stepped forward. This infuriated the Germans. The next time the order was given for the Jews to step forward, the order changed. This time “all” of the prisoners stepped forward.
Once they were eventually liberated by the Russians, they were subjected to a total lack of cooperation in reuniting with the Americans. Several weeks later, Mr. Lichenfeld and five others traversed more than 100 miles through German and Russian lines to find the American troops. By that point, he had lost 65 pounds, now only 100 pounds.
Finally, Mr. Lichtenfeld stated that one of the lessons they will never forget in the real difference between good and evil, and the true value of friendship. He closed with the “POW” Pledge of Allegiance.