Solomon (Solly) Perel was one of some 15,000 Jewish
boys posing as Nazi
s during World War II
. However, I have singled him out because I learned of him in a Humanities
class while watching the German
film Europa Europa
. His story is somewhat more "glorious
" (if I can use that word at all to describe such atrocities
) than the rest of the group. The film was based on his life (with very few inaccuracies) and can serve as a relatively good account of what really went on in his life from 1939
In 1939, war had broken out in Germany and was spreading across all of Europe. Perel's family decided to send Solomon and his brother Isaac to the Soviet Union to be safe, should the Nazis extend their power eastward. Solomon was 14 at the time. While crossing a river into Russia, Solomon and Isaac were separated due to a lack of space on the ferries. Solomon waited the next day for his brother's arrival, but gave up when he did not show up. He was unaware that the second ferry across the river had been seized by German forces.
He ended up in a Russian orphanage after crossing the border and was raised under Communism. He joined the Komsomol (similar to Boy Scouts) and became a junior officer. In 1941 the orphanage was bombed and his comrades fled. He and many others were left behind. They were captured by pursuing Nazi forces. To escape "evacuation", Perel hid his identification papers and tried to pass himself as pure-bred German under the name Josef Peters. He spoke very fluently in German and managed to convince an interrogating officer that he was indeed a native. He was quickly inducted into the Nazi army as a Russian-German translator. During his time as a soldier in the Nazi army, he saw what was being done to the Jewish people and was completely disgusted as well as confused...his fellow soldiers were so kind to him; they offered him food and rest and support, yet they turned so incredibly evil when dealing with a known Jew. How could one have so radically different sides, and all that separated those sides was the label: Jew or German. He eventually made close friends with one of the soldiers, and it was discovered that his friend had homosexual tendencies. During an incident where his friend stalked him in the bath, his "Jewishness" was found out. However, his friend proved himself when he did not betray Perel. Instead, they grew closer (as friends) and no other similar homosexual incidents happened. However, Perel decided he could not pose as a soldier much longer and decided to flee, so he arranged a meeting with Russian soldiers. Unfortunately, the Russians were ambushed and Perel was seen as a Nazi hero for setting them up.
Perel was then transferred to an elite Hitler Youth School because of his heroics, which was ironic considering that the school was for elite Aryans only. Even more ironic was that he was examined by a professor who claimed to be able to distinguish races by looking at bone structure. After being studied, he was declared by this professor as one "clearly possessing Aryan traits" in front of his peers. At this facility, many people were friendly to him, but Perel was in conflict about whether they were his true friends or not. He was too afraid that the instant he revealed he was Jewish, his "friends" would turn against him. There were few Germans at this elitist school who were as friendly as his Army buddy. They would not show him sympathy if he were exposed. He spent the rest of the war there, escaping physical examinations, struggling with himself when saluting Hitler, pledging to God to eradicate his own race, and participating in gruesome war exercises consisting of tasks such as stabbing the Star of David inscribed on a Jewish body.
In 1945, the Third Reich fell and Russian soldiers captured the city. He was reunited with his brother, but was shocked to learn that his mother and father had both died in death camps. He renewed his Jewish faith after the war and tried his entire life to make up for his sins. He lives in Israel today and has 2 children.