Wet Wisconsin summer air tempers my body's day-labor generated heat. Even with my marked coveralls taken down to the waste, and my undershirt removed, I'm only just cool enough for the ride back to the camp after splashing what's left of the water in our bucket over my head.
"Come on, Freddie, hurry up! It's movie night!" Max yells from the back of the 2.5 ton Ford truck we took out to the cornfield this morning.
Emil jumps into the cab, taking the afternoon driving shift so our American guard, John, can nap in the passenger seat during our half-hour drive back to Camp Fox Lake.
I dive aboard the back of the truck, throwing the empty water bucket against the cab as I take my seat against the side rail.
I'm going to miss this when they send us home, now that the war is over!
Coming back from the Spitzer Farm in the back with the other men of my bunk, I can't help but feel good about another day working the land.
Even thousands of miles from home, all I want to do is work the land. It's all I ever wanted, and all I'll ever want.
The half-hour drive goes quick because Max and Jona compete to see who can belch the loudest while the rest of us tempt them with new English words to say as they project forth swallowed air.
As we enter the camp we see the other men beginning to assemble in the hall for tonight's movie.
"I hope we see Greta tonight!" Jona declares.
Jumping in with his predictable request, Liam once again offers his desire, "Dorothy for me, every time!"
I'm just hungry.
We shuffle into the hall where a table of sandwiches is piled high directly in front of about two-hundred folding chairs lined up perfectly before the white screen.
Grabbing two sandwiches and a cold Coca-Cola, I take a seat next to Emil, not too far from the projector where one of the guards is fumbling with a small real, rather than the bigger ones that signal a full-length feature.
Probably another Why We Fight today.
Emil bumps me in the ribs before speaking in my ear, "Likely going to show how thee're beating the Japs."
Nodding in agreement, I take a bite into a ham sandwich as the film starts up and the lights turn off.
The first image comes onto the screen, but it's blurry as the guard working the projector fine-tunes the focus.
As the image becomes clear a pile of emaciated bodies fills the screen.
I stop chewing.
These are dead. Some with striped rags, probably remnants of clothes, draping parts of their corps.
My hand slowly falls, letting the ham sandwich fall apart on my leg as the camera pans across a wide area full of piles of these dead bodies.
Where is that?
"What is this?" someone up front yells out.
"Shut It!" the guard next to the projector replies in a gruff, and unfamiliar, voice.
He's not one of our regular guards.
Moving from the piles of bodies, the camera then centers upon a small group of skeletons standing behind barbed wire. Each is in similar striped clothes, almost like pajamas, with symbols on their chests.
"Are these prisons of war?" someone else calls out.
Whose prisoners are these?
"No, these are civilians, put into NAZI death camps!" one of the guards counters.
Voices in the film begin talking about the prisoners, the camps, the bodies we continue to see as the film progresses.
Emil's leg jerks as the image of a pile of dead children next to piles of shoes, comes on the screen. His leg knocks over my forgotten Coca-Cola, which I had placed on the floor.
Without looking down at the streaming Coca-Cola I can sense its cool liquid flowing around my right foot.
Another gruesome image of a mangled body comes on screen to the masculine voice over declaring that this is one of many camps liberated in Germany and Poland.
Did the others have children too?
I can't stand watching anymore.
How do I get out of here?
My hands rise from my lap to cover my eyes.
I don't want to see any more of this.
"We did not fight for that!" Max yells from three seats over.
I just wanted to be a farmer, not a soldier.
My eyes shut.
At the close of World War II over 425,000 German Prisoners of War (POWs) were housed at more than 700 camps throughout the United States. Following the liberation of the NAZI Concentration Camps throughout occupied Europe, America's leaders felt it would be important for these POWs to understand the full extent of what their country had done during the war. The documented proof of the Holocaust was shown to these German POWs in what was called Forced Confrontation. Many Germans could not accept that their country had committed these acts. Others responded with shock, anger, amazement and pure horror. In one instance, over 1,000 prisoners at Camp Butner, in North Carolina, burned their German uniforms. There is still strong debate about how much regular German soldiers knew of the Holocaust. Members of SS units knew very well what actions they were taking. Yet, arguments abound that the average German soldier knew little if anything about what was going on despite such activities taking place across their homeland and occupied territories where they traveled and visited often.