JUF lay leader’s World War II role highlighted

Berlin web image

Manfred Steinfeld, former JUF/Federation Chairman of the Board and two-time General Chairman of the JUF Annual Campaign, is one of 14 German Jews featured in a new exhibition at the Allied Museum in Berlin highlighting "Victors, Liberators, Occupiers: German Jews in the Service of the Allies." The exhibition illuminates a little-known chapter of German-Jewish history through the stories of German Jews who escaped the Nazi regime but returned to Europe as members of the Allied armed forces during World War II. 

Steinfeld arrived in Chicago at age 14 in June 1938 with 10 dollars stitched into his pants pocket. He went into the U.S. Army less than a year after graduating from Hyde Park high School, and then heroically participated in five campaigns with the renowned 82nd Airborne Division, for which he received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal. He was among the first American GIs to liberate a concentration camp, helping to free inmates at Woebblin.

At age 21, Steinfeld also played a distinctive role at the end of the war, assisting in the translation of the unconditional surrender document when the German 21st Army Group surrendered to the 82nd Airborne Division at Ludwigslust, Germany.

Steinfeld was recalled to active duty at the onset of the Korean War and served for two years as a military intelligence officer. He then went on to become an extraordinarily successful businessman and a major philanthropist.

"We had to do what had to be done," Steinfeld said simply.

Along with Steinfeld, featured veterans include former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Wilmette resident Walter Reed.

Sponsored by the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, the exhibit is part of Berlin's commemoration of a year-long theme of "Diversity Destroyed. Berlin 1933-1938-1945." The exhibit, which opened in the spring, runs through Dec. 1, 2013.

Linda S. Haase is the senior associate vice president of Marketing Communications for the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

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