Prof. Emeritus Monas, former POW, taught for generations
When Sidney Monas was taken in as a German prisoner of war during World War II, he remembers being huddled in boxcars – cold, hungry and dehydrated – as he was transported all over the German railroad network to Nuremberg.
Posted: September 1, 2009
History Prof. Emeritus Sidney Monas
During the 10-day long train ride, Monas was exposed to strafing attacks from U.S. aircrafts. Air Force pilots had no way of knowing the train they were strafing carried American prisoners of war. Starving, cold and under attack, Monas and his fellow passengers were actually glad to arrive in prison camp.
To keep a low profile, Monas decided not to let his captors know he spoke German. But when another prisoner came down with blood poisoning and a raging fever, Monas was the only person in the prison block who could call to the guards for help in German. The wounded “kriegie,” as the Germans called the prisoners (short for kriegsgefangener or POW) received some medical attention, but Monas never saw him again.
The Germans then decided to make better use of Monas, by making him an interpreter between guards and “kriegies.” One particular incident that continues to stand out in Monas’ memory occurred when the camp’s political officer objected and refused to approve him as a trustee, declaring he was a Jew.
“For the only time in my life, I had to deny my identity to save my life,” says Monas, now a professor emeritus of history at The University of Texas at Austin. “I had bad dreams about that denial for many years to come.”