An amazing tale of a US soldier saved by a Nazi doctor

The Second World War has countless tales of heroic escapes and daring adventures, but some stories that came out of this war restore one’s faith in humanity and peace. One such story was tells of an American prisoner of war, who was badly wounded, His death was certain due to both his condition and his ethnicity, since he was Jewish. Then he met a Nazi doctor, who not only saved his life, but also made sure that he stayed alive during his imprisonment as a POW.

US Army Pvt. Bob Levine arrived in England a few days before the Allied forces were to land on Normandy. He actively took part in the D-Day invasion and his 81-mm mortar crew was right behind the 90th Infantry when the actual invasion took place. The Allied forces met with fierce German opposition, and the intense fighting lasted weeks. In one such encounter, Levine was hit by a grenade that landed very close to him; his right leg was severely damaged in the explosion. He was captured by German forces, along with many other US soldiers. On his way to the POW camp, they were hit by a mortar shell fired by the US Army, which landed very close to POW killing scores of soldiers. Although Bob survived the explosion, his leg took more blows and he became even weaker and lost more blood.

Next thing Levine remembers was a Nazi doctor’s face, inspecting his wounds and reading his dog tag. Levine said that when this doctor read his dog tag and uttered the words ‘Was ist H?’ he knew then that he would definitely be executed. At that time, every American soldier had a religious designation marked on the dog tag, C for Catholic, P for Protestant and H for Hebrew. He was badly wounded, and was at the mercy of a Nazi doctor, in Nazi-controlled territory, and on top of all that, he was Jewish, Levine called this a recipe for disaster.

The Nazi doctor who treated Levine was Dr Edgar Woll. When Levine woke up after some time of unconsciousness, he found out that his leg had been amputated, and that the Nazi doctor was gone. His dog tag was missing and there was a note tucked into his pocket. The doctor had written a note on back of a Nazi propaganda card bearing quotes of the Fuehrer. Levine could not understand it, as it was written in German.

After this, Levine was transferred to a POW camp, where he stayed until US soldiers liberated them and he was sent home.

It was after his arrival in the US that he realized what had happened to him and that not only had he survived the World War, but he had came out of it with a rare and amazing story.

The Nazi doctor had definitely saved his life, by performing an amputation, and most importantly removing his dog tag with its mention of ‘H’. Levine recalls that Dr Woll had written reasons and details of his surgery on the card, for Levine’s reference. Levine said if it were not for Edgar, he would have ended up in one of those special POW camp specially made for US Jews, where they mostly died of exhaustion or were executed, the Daily News reports.

Levine went back to Normandy in 1981, where he wanted to meet the Nazi doctor but found out that he had died in 1954. A local historian tracked down Dr Woll’s family, who were happy to see Levine and his wife. They had an evening of drinks and toasts together. Levine mentioned to Edgar’s family how grateful he was for what he had done for Levine, to which one of Edgar’s family member said that if it hadn’t been for Levine, they would still be saying ‘Heil Hitler’.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE