By: Chaplain (1LT) Joseph Shubow, “Rabbis in Uniform”
I was determined to celebrate that Passover in proper style. With my assistant, Leon Blum of New York, I searched the area around Rheidt, or Muenchen Gladbach, for an appropriate building. Most of the local Germans whom I approached for information were uncooperative. But finally one responded: “Ach ja Goebbels’ castle is in this vicinity.”
Following his directions, we soon came to the castle of the vile, little modern Pharaoh. There I was ushered in to see COL Barney Oldfield, Commander of the 9th Army Press Camp. “Sir,” I explained, “Jewish soldiers of the 9th Army are about to celebrate the Passover. May I utilize the facilities of this Castle for the celebration?” “Chaplain,” the Colonel answered, “I come from Hollywood. If anyone back home submitted a script to me that called for a Jewish Passover to be celebrated by a Jewish Chaplain and American Jewish soldiers in Goebbels Castle, I would reject it as a tale too incredible to believe. Now you come to me with such a request! I am delighted to grant it.”…
Six weeks after the first Seder night, Goebbels commited suicide. Perhaps Joe Goebbels, the arch anti Semite, had heard that Joe Shubow, a Jewish Chaplain of the American Army, celebrated the ancient Festival of Freedom in his Castle.
An Associated Press story quotes Chaplain Shubow: “This is indeed retribution. When this little monkey Goebbels decreed the burning of the synagogues seven years ago he little imagined that we would one day eat potato pancakes in his own home.”
CPL Sidney Talmud, “Purim and Passover in Goebbels’ Castle”
In the middle of March, 1945, I was approached by Lt. Shubow, our Jewish chaplain. He planned to conduct Passover services, and since I was the only Jewish cook in the battalion, would I supervise the food arrangements.
The next two weeks were hectic. We had been moving through Germany and finally stopped at München Gladbach. I solicited all canned goods from our Jewish soldiers and they responded generously. Since army kitchens worked primarily with frozen, canned, and dehydrated foods, I passed the word to our scroungers that I needed fresh potatoes. I soon had a truckload.
Erev Pesach came and our chaplain directed our convoy several miles to an imposing building called “Schloss Reydt.” This was Goebbels’ castle. Directly off the veranda, where I set up two gasoline camp stoves, was a gigantic banquet room that would easily accommodate the 300 GIs I would feed. On one wall was a picture of Hitler and one of my buddies had scrawled “Kaput” across it. For the next two or three hours I was too busy to deal with emotions. They came later.
While I was frying latkes a fellow came by and inquired what I was doing. I offered him some pancakes while I explained our presence. Evidently the latkes agreed with him. He kept eating them and asking me lots of questions and that night his story flew across the Atlantic cable, and my parents were interviewed by Time and the papers, and WEVD, and they planted trees for me in Israel, and my mother, rest her soul, discovered that I had lied to her. I wasn’t having a great time in Paris after all. However, as mothers will, she forgave me. When all the latkes were fried and eaten, I joined my comrades in the Passover songs. We had seen the atrocities and now we were savoring some small measure of vengeance and victory.
There wasn’t a seder [since] I recall when I didn’t for an ephemeral moment envision Hitler’s portrait with ‘Kaput’ scrawled across it and a tray of sizzling latkes just removed from the hot oil. And when the youngest completes his Four Questions and the company responds “Avadim Hayenu,” I still get the sense of having been there. (National Museum for Jewish American Military Heritage)
Reprinted from the Pesach 2022 issue of The Jewish American Warrior.