The 14-year-old Jew Manfred Steinfeld fled from Nazi Germany to the USA in 1938. Seven years later he returned with the 82nd U.S. Airborne Division as a liberator and participated in Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands. On 2 May 1945 he witnessed the meeting of U.S. and Soviet forces at the Elbe as well as the liberation of Wöbbelin concentration camp.
After the November pogrom of 1938 Manfred Steinfeld’s mother tried everything to get her children out of Nazi Germany. Steinfeld’s brother made it to Palestine, but his sister’s attempt to escape to England with a children’s transport failed. Later on the girl and her mother were murdered in a concentration camp. Steinfeld managed to flee to the USA with the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. In Chicago, where he had relatives, the 14-year-old refugee earned his first money as a paperboy.
In 1943 Steinfeld became a U.S. citizen and was drafted. As a new American he wanted to contribute personally to the fight against fascism. At Camp Ritchie in Maryland he was trained to conduct interrogations and analyse aerial photos. Steinfeld participated in Operation Market Garden and landed in the Netherlands in September 1944 as a paratrooper of the 82nd Airborne Division.
On 2 May 1945 he was present at the American-Soviet meeting on the Elbe in Grabow, near Ludwigslust. A few days before the final collapse of the German Reich Steinfeld translated the surrender document of Army Group Vistula under General von Tippelskirch. On that same day his unit discovered the Wöbbelin concentration camp.
At the end of the war Steinfeld served with the U.S. military government’s counter-intelligence section. He arrested a man who later turned out to be the former deputy commandant of Ravensbrück concentration camp. Steinfeld was subsequently transferred to the U.S. Sector of Berlin. In Dahlem he requisitioned living quarters and offices for the staff of his division. After returning to the USA in October 1945 he built a successful career in the furniture business. Manfred Steinfeld divides his time between Chicago and Boca Raton, Florida.
U.S. troops occupying Berlin
The army of the Soviet Union conquered Berlin in April/May 1945. Two months later the Western Allied troops also entered the city. On 4 July 1945, the American Independence Day, U.S. troops officially took charge of their occupation sector in southwest Berlin. In September 1994, after almost 50 years, the Allied troops withdrew from Berlin.
The Allied Museum tells a unique story: from the German defeat in the Second World War to the division of West and East Berlin between the three Western powers and the Soviet Union. Berlin became the most important scene of the struggle that is known as the Cold War.
The German-Russian Museum is located at the site of the unconditional surrender of Germany on 8 May 1945 in Berlin-Karlshorst, marking the end of the Second World War in Europe. Today it is a place where two former wartime enemies jointly recall some of their common, albeit very violent history.