Stalag III B ©

by
Bill Copeland
There are many stories which haven't been told and, I fear, will be untold or forgotten. I heard one the other day, from an old show called ON THE ROAD with Charles Kuralt. The series has passed from CBS to THE TRAVEL CHANNEL and the film shows the age and wear of many showings and much wear.

Kuralt was interviewing an old Russian man in Moscow, a name I did not catch, but the message was clear. He had been a dentist and was taken prisoner during WWII, held in Stalag 3B. There were American POW's in the camp as well, but the prisoners were kept apart.

The Americans, he said, were fed much better than the Russians, who were only allowed a litre of potato soup and a litre of water per day. It was difficult for all the prisoners, he added, but the Germans were harsher on the Russian s than any of the others.

The old man presented a metal cigarette case, roughly engraved from an American doctor to him, the Russian doctor, it read. He said the Americans approached him and offered to share their food rations with him and the other Russians. A plan was hatched where he was able to get the food to the soldiers that needed it the most.

Eventually, they were discovered, and the Americans, 3000 of them, were lined up in the hot sun and kept at attention. The Germans demanded to know who on the Russian side was accepting the food. They remained on the parade ground all day and took their punishment, but none of the Americans betrayed the doctor's identity.

Before departing, the old man gave Kuralt a list of the names of the Americans who had helped him, and said he wanted the world to know of these men, of their heroism, and he wanted to express his gratitude, proudly stating he had not forgotten them.

CBS and Kuralt found the men. The American doctor lived in San Antonio and possessed the wooden cigarette case given him by the Russian dentist. Inside the case was a metal plate, roughly engraved from the Russian doctor to the American doctor. This American said he did not want to remember those times, that he just wanted to forget. He added with tears in his eyes, "But I can't forget. I remember it all."

Another of the Americans remembered as well. Kuralt asked why he had helped the Russian POW's. "They were our allies. That was what we were supposed to do. They were our friends."

That statement still rings in my head. "They were our allies. ... They were our friends." He made the statement as if there had never been a cold war or ill feelings between our people. He made it simply and from the heart.

Kuralt covered the reunion in Moscow of the last man and the Russian doctor, a tearful meeting filled with emotion and joy. They embraced as old comrades do, forgetting that more than thirty years had passed, that they, despite political differences, remembered and celebrated a time when they were friends.


Accolades for Cheryl A. Madden for supplying me the names of these men. She found it in READERS DIGEST, Nov. 1990, p. 132.

The Russian doctor is Dr. Nikita Zakaravich Asseyev of Moscow.
The American doctor is Dr. Sidney Brockman of San Antonio.
Two brothers were also mentioned by Dr. Asseyev, Michael and Peter Wowczuk.
There were others but their names were not remembered.


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