The Holocaust was a tragedy that claimed countless lives in Europe, but Europeans were not its only victims. Thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish American citizens, both soldiers and civilians, died in Nazi concentration camps. By all rights, Roy Allen, an Air Force pilot from Pennsylvania, should have been one of them.
When Allen was drafted into World War II, he had to leave a lot behind-- a major league baseball contract, his hometown, and his wife, May, 6 months pregnant. Allen was determined to make it back home alive. His experience and coolness under fire gave his crew total confidence that they too would make it. But one day, he and his crew were assigned a particularly dangerous mission. In spite of their best efforts, their plane was hit in the wing. As flames rapidly made their way toward the fuel tanks, Allen somehow managed to keep the plane steady as his crew jumped out, then made it out himself just before the plane exploded. His crew was nowhere to be seen. He landed, crashing into a tree.
He had landed in a small town in France. A young schoolteacher named Colette Florin rescued and hid him for a few months. To keep himself occupied, he made up crossword puzzles. He was too noisy, though, arousing suspicion, and one day, he barely escaped through a window as Germans came to search Colette's house. After this incident, the French Resistance arranged for him to leave the country with a man known as “Captain Jacques.” The man insisted that Roy take off his dog tags. Allen reluctantly did so, but it was a mistake. “Captain Jacques” was not really with the resistance at all. Roy found himself in the hands of the Gestapo, and with no identification, he was in serious danger. To make matters worse, the Germans found the puzzles he had made, and tortured him to reveal the “secret code.” How stupid, Roy thought. At least he couldn't betray anyone.
After a few months, he was put on a train to Buchenwald, along with 168 other Allied POWs. As the train made its way across Germany, the POWs pried the floorboards loose and began escaping beneath the moving wheels. Just before Roy's turn came to escape, they were discovered by the German guards. Was this to be the end?
...to be continued next month!