From Buchenwald Prisoner to Bronze Star Medal Awardee

On Saturday, March 7, 2020, the General Mercer Chapter of NJDAR proudly hosted Ernest Kaufman and members of the Armed Forces Heritage Museum (AFHM) to their spring luncheon and speaker meeting at the Old Florence Firehouse which houses the Florence Historical Society.  Ernest resides in Burlington County. He is a well-known for his story as a Holocaust survivor and distinguished service in the American military during the Second World War. to becoming a poultry farmer in New Egypt is compelling to many audiences.

Kaufman advanced to the rank of major during his nine years of military service, along the way taking a bullet in the back and left arm-, thus adding a Purple Heart to his Bronze Star.  But how does a young Jewish man imprisoned in Buchenwald Concentration Camp on the Night of the Broken Glass “Krystal Nacht”, make it to America?  He was one of the fortunate few whose parents could arrange for his passage out of Germany to America. It was done through the generosity of a decent family in America.  Ernest related how he never learned their name; he never met them, so he could not properly express his gratitude.  Ernest considers himself one of the blessed few who survived Nazi tyranny. His parents and the remaining members of his family perished in the Holocaust. He does not dwell on his loss, his humor and joy of life shine through.

He was young and planning to be married when the attack on Pearl Harbor changed the course of his life. Ernest vividly described how he could not ignore the very country that saved him. Trained as an Intelligence officer he landed at Normandy on D plus five and fought through to wars end. He utilized his ability to speak fluent German and limited French in situations where he was able to persuade enemy soldiers to surrender without firing a shot. His intensive work as a strategist and translator saved an entire American army from drowning when the Germans planned to blow up dams as the Americans approached in the valley below. In the waning days of the war he risked his life to save the German town of Einbeck. Entering the town in the accompaniment of the town mayor, he convinced a German Field Marshall to surrender rather than fight an unnecessary battle .His story would make a compelling motion picture!

Severely wounded just four weeks before the war ended in Europe, he was hospitalizes for six months. He returned to duty and served as an investigator for lessor criminals at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials. He was assigned to Fort Dix, and when his injuries required a disability discharge, he and his wife purchased a failing chicken farm. Through their collective “grit” they turned it into a thriving operation. 

In 2016 Ernest published his story in a book titled From Fright to Fight to Farm: A Journey of Survival, available from Amazon in paperback.   Ernest’s neighbor, AFHM member and book editor, Joanne Thomas, utilized her years teaching English at the college to assist Ernest in creating a captivating narrative…Ernest sure knew how to pick a next door neighbor!