The story of Harry Vozic is of necessity in two parts; the first part
being the portion of the story known to me, and the second
It was in July or August of 1943 that Harry Vozic
first came to my attention at Stalag VII-A at Moosburg, Bavaria. At that
time I had been Man of Confidence for the American Army Air Force for a
period of some months, having been previously selected by the members of
that group, first at Stalag III-B, and later at Stalag VII-A.
Prisoners-of-War of that period will remember this was
a time when there was much turmoil, entering and leaving of
prisoners-of-war from North Africa, intermingling of nationalities from
all over eastern Europe and Russia, severe shortage of food due to
bombing of marshalling yards in that section of Germany, numerous escape
attempts with consequent reprisals by the German staff, and general
upheaval in all phases of our camp life.
One evening about dusk a
prisoner-of-war stepped up to me as I
was bustling about the compound and asked
to speak with me, that he had a problem. In looking at him I decided I
had not seen him before. When assured I had time to visit, he drew me to
a quieter part of the compound
and related that his name was Harry Vozic,
that he had been a member of the French Underground, that he had over
the last couple of years been aiding both British and lately American
Air Force personnel to evade capture in France and, with assistance from.
the Underground, been taking them to the west coast of France,
contacting submarines, and helping them to evade capture and expediting
return to England.
His clothes were of the typical nondescript
portions of both British and American uniforms, he stood about five feet
and had a somewhat ragged moustache on his
upper lip with black hair.
At that time I would have guessed his age at mid to
latter thirties, certainly older than the average prisoner at that stage
of the war,
In retrospect, he bore a striking resemblance to the
character who presently plays the role of Sidney, the psychiatrist on
the TV version of M.A.S.H., with a slight resemblance to Groucho
Marx. His voice was very similar to that of the aforementioned Sidney
and his accent, in my opinion, was pure New York City.
Vozic went on to explain that he had been captured
with a group of men he was attempting to help evade capture, that with
their assistance he related to the Germans that he was a waist gunner,
it had been his first mission, he knew nothing more. He stated he had
maintained a low profile and displayed high ignorance when questioned at
He further felt the Gestapo would have more than
ordinary interest in this group of men and, if his identify were
discovered, he would be tortured for his knowledge of the Underground
and would ultimately die at their hands.
He further stated since all the men seemed to trust
me, he had come to me with his burden and in hope that ultimately I may
be able to assist him in evading the pursuit of the Gestapo.
Vozic intimated he had friends in high places, but
would not name anyone. When I asked how a New York boy had ended up in
France, he stated he had been working there when the war broke out, had
I faintlyremember Vozic brought forward a couple of
lads who then verified that Vozic had been captured with them, but not a
great deal more than that.
It should be noted that a number of prisoners-of-war
had come to me in just such a furtive manner and related stories, not on
the grand scale that Vozic had related, but intimating they were in
various intelligence agencies and offering to help, if need be. Their
stories were filed away in my head, but never seriously considered and
usually -nothing more came of the matters. Thus it was with Vozic.
Accepted and practically forgotten.
My contacts with Vozic thereafter during the time we
were in VII-A were casual, neyer speaking directly, and I only remember
My next contact of substance with Harry Vozic came
shortly after our arrival at Stalag XVII-B. There
was a shortage of everything, barracks were filthy with lice and dirt, a
very real threat of flak typhus, and were short of medical help, medical
supplies, and trained personnel.
Vozic came forward, re-identified himself, stated he had some small knowledge of medical first-aid, gave me a list of medical supplies that would be of help in our desperate situation.
We then set aside Barracks No. 13 for use as an infirmary. We were
fortunate in having Mark Curtis at the hospital
and with his aid
and the aid of J. J. Katuzney and others, all natural born freebooters
and scroungers of the first water, supplies were stolen from the
Germans, passed into the camp, some order appeared, and for the first
time we had an ability to assist the men with at least minor illnesses.
With the arrival of skilled personnel led by Dr. Fred Beaumont, major
needs were handled most capably and our medical distress was much eased.
Vozic remained in the infirmary and was usually
referred to as "ole Doc Vozic" and he performed yeoman service in his
role as a first-aid practitioner. It did not seem to be in his nature to
be a follower but rather a leader. This began to cause some resentment
among the doctors and occasionally they would make
One thing I did was to call Vozic for a conference
and I pointed out that if he indeed was what and who he said he was, he
certainly was becoming too apparent in the eyes of others and may even
become a clinker in the eye of the German authorities.
There was something within him that made him tweak the noses of the
authorities. While he was fluent in the German language, as I had
learned by this time, he never used that language in the presence of the
German authorities, but he simply had to twit some guard or insult
another and attendant outrage on their part was making him more and more
set apart from the average American. Repeatedly it was necessary to
caution him and he would grin, agree, and go back to the infirmary and
be quiet for a time.
Probably Harry Vozic was the source of more
embarrassment to me than any other person during this period. Seldom a
day passed that someone, persons in whom I had the highest trust and for
whom I carried the highest regard, would come up and comment that Vozic
was perhaps a spy for the Germans, perhaps a communist agent, did I
really know anything about him, had I really checked on this guy,
certainly he was not an Air Force man, what did I really know.
It was difficult to .do anything more than just mumble
inanely, change the subject and walk away from it.
In retrospect it was best that he remained in the
infirmary with a group who had befriended him and were extremely loyal
than to be in a close-knit group in a corner of one of the barracks for
his ignorance in military matters might well have destroyed him.
Vozic was forever a madman with humor, improvising
practical jokes, kidding around and good at keeping spirits up.
Eventually over the period of six months until March of 1944 we became
very close, personal friends. He would slip into my barracks late at
night and we had many, many visits. My memories of those discussions are
a highlight of my experience as a prisoner-of-war. We discussed anything
and everything. His knowledge of psychology seemed awesome to me, he had
traveled extensively and was most capable at expressing himself.
Eventually I learned he spoke five or six languages. I utilized him in
discussions with the leaders of the various communities within the camp.
He would sit looking at the center of the table and translate my
thoughts into Russian, French, Polish and Serbian, then translate their
comments into each of the other languages and back into English for my
benefit. For the occasional person who spoke German and with whose
dialect he was having difficulty, he would use that language instead.
This was not. uncommon for many of them had been
prisoners-of-war for over four years and had of necessity learned the
From these meetings a great deal of good was
accomplished; certainly intercamp relations were improved, mutual
problems discussed, and occasionally the leaders would have the arbeit
commandos who worked outside the camp bring in supplies that we needed
badly. It helped set the stage later for a quasi-military force if it
should be needed.
In short, Vozic became invaluable in many ways.
However, he was and he realized this and went on. His phobia Diced more
and more and out of the camp if at
An opportunity to accomplish this arose in about
March of 1944 when a memo arrived that a repatriation of injured
personnel was to commence in the near future, that I would be notified
This repatriation fell into two categories. The first
category was for the men who were completely unfit for future military
service, i.e. the blind, limbs gone, seriously wounded.
The second category fell into the Camp Leader's list,
who would act before the Commission as an advocate, and these disabled
were composed of heart problems, partial blindness, wounds that caused
one to perhaps limp but were not totally debilitating, internal problems
not apparent to the naked eye and so forth.
Quite obviously Vozic did not fit in the more
critical category. We decided that he would turn himself into the
hospital on the hill and we would go do work necessary to place him into
the second category, the Camp Leader's list.
Contact was made with a physician from another
country, who shall remain nameless, and through an intricate set of
discussions we came up with a plan. Vozic would go under the care of
this physician at the hospital, this doctor then set up a carefully
orchestrated set of medical records that he had filched from a
desperately ill Russian soldier (who ultimately died). I believe the
condition assigned to Vozic was tuberculosis of the spine, but I could
be in error about that. Whatever it was, it has a prognosis of death in
a comparatively short time. His complete medical file was set up,
complete with x-rays taken from the other file .and. re-identified with
Vozic entered the hospital the latter part of March.
He must have been a consummate actor for reports reached me of his
gradual decline, a facial pallor, total listlessness, becoming more
emaciated and completely prostrate in bed. Frankly, it began to worry me
and upon inquiry with the doctor, I was assured all was going according
to plan and quit worrying.
As I remember, it was in May of 1944 the hearings on
the repatriation applicants were held. There were several whose cases
were so apparent that no hearing was necessary and were granted
automatic repatriation. Then the hearing on my list of applicants began.
There were three German doctors and two Swiss doctors with a simple
majority required for approval.
If memory serves me correctly, there were 56 on my
list and we were successful for about 32. Germany had many wounded
soldiers on duty around the camp and resisted letting several go as they
felt they would still be useful in the military despite their wounds. Of
those that left the camp, many died shortly after or in later years, and
several are still alive today.
Late in the hearings, about the very last, Harry
Vozic was carried into the hearing room on a stretcher. I was truly
shocked at his appearance. He had a stubble of beard on his face, his
mustache that he had vowed never to trim until Hitler was dead was
positively hideous in length. He appeared emaciated and his eyes were
listless and non-focusing. After conferring privately among the doctors,
they announced he would go home. Now came the moment of true brilliance.
Vozic raised up slightly and stated emphatically he did not wish to go
home, it was much better that his wife and family should never see him
in this condition, it was a long trip home across the Atlantic and he
would never make it, better his family should remember him as he had
been and not as this pitiful thing he had become.
He remained so adamant about his position that I
thought to myself, if this guy blows this, I personally will kill him
when it is over. His role was played to perfection. The German doctors
as well as the Swiss came to his stretcher, stood around him and pleaded
with him to go home. He ultimately acceded to their wishes,
I saw him only once more and believe that was on
August 27, 1944, when I was allowed to bid goodbye to the repats at the
train station in Krems. He had written a memo to me in a Wartime Log
given by the YMCA and it was most affectionate and signed with "Ole Doc
Vozic" and just above it he had written "Rube." I really didn't pay a
great deal of attention to "Rube" as it meant nothing to me until much
After release from the prison camp and ultimate
arrival at Camp Lucky Strike, I was transferred along with Security
Chief Joe Dillard to a hotel run by the Intelligence Corps on Rue
Lafayette in Paris. There were in residence a couple of Generals and a
group of Colonels along with support personnel.
Mid-afternoon of the following
day after arrival one of the Generals stated he had invited an old
friend of mine named Dr. Reuben Rabinovitch for dinner that evening as a
surprise for the doctor since he did not know I was there.
I blankly stared at the group and stated
there must be some mistake as I knew no one by that name.
They smiled at each other and then asked, "How about
Harry Vozic?" Him, I knew. Okay, he would be coming for dinner, his real
name was Dr. Reuben Rabinovitch, he was one of General Eisenhower's pets
and a madman to boot. Joe Dillard looked at me and said, "You are still
one lucky so-and-so,
To say this knowledge was a relief is putting it
mildly. I had carried Harry Vozic as a nightmare in my mind for so long
that it had become a small fire in my belly,never being able to discuss
it with anyone and not knowing whether I had been right or wrong in my
assessment of him as trustworthy.
Shortly before dinner that
evening I went out on a small balcony overlooking the street below.
was a sunny evening in late May and I
watched the street below. Shortly I saw Harry coming. He was striding
jauntily down the street with a cane in his hand, he wore a civilian
suit and his mustache was trimmed (Hitler was dead). I let him pass
beneath the balcony and, when he was perhaps ten feet from the entrance
to the hotel I shouted at him in German, calling his name and telling
him to stand right where he was, that I wanted to talk to him. Vozic
never flinched, never paused or looked around. He walked a few more
steps, appeared to stumble as though he had stepped on a shoelace, bent
down facing away from me and then peered under his shoulder back up at
me while pretending to tie his shoelaces. He straightened slowly, turned
around and then said: "Kurt, you
After a wild dinner he informed
the Generals he would be taking me away for a few days and they agreed.
I had only some ragged uniform clothing, but that made no difference
wherever I went as everyone accepted me.
He took me to a hospital the next morning
where he performed some cranial surgery and during this time he informed
me he had been a neurosurgeon and had continued his practice in Paris
after the Germans had left it an open city. This country boy cannot
remember all the things that happened in the next few days, but they
included a sumptuous dinner at the
He had many, many friends in all walks of life in
Paris and seemed to be appreciated by all. After those few days were
over he returned me to the hotel and I left almost immediately for home
and ended up in Washington.
After the war Dr. Rabinovitch
called me at home in Montana several times and wrote a few letters. In
the early 1.950's he was awarded the Medal of Freedom at a ceremony in
Washington, D.C. by then President Eisenhower.
While I was invited, I was unable to
It now becomes necessary to return to the time when
the repatriates left Krems for their trip home. Portions of this were
related to me by Harry Vozic (Dr. Rabinovitch), and portions by Frank W.
Bartlett of LaVeta, Colorado, who had become a close friend of Dr.
Rabinovitch and had lived in Montreal with him and attended McGill
University after the war.
The repatriation train went to a marshalling area
where their numbers swelled with other repatriates from other prison
camps throughout Germany. After a few days they then went on a ferry to
Sweden where they embarked aboard the Swedish hospital ship Gripsholm.
Frank relates how somewhere in the Baltic the ship was stopped, a search
made by the Germans. Vozic, as I will continue to, .all him for now,
became agitated for he feared they were looking for him, but it was to
search for a couple of defecting Germans.
The ship then went on to Liverpool, England. While in
the Liverpool harbor prior to sailing for America a Colonel of some
importance came on board and commenced a grueling interrogation of Harry
Vozic lasting some seven hours. At the end of this closeted
interrogation, Harry and the Colonel walked off the ship.
Harry had commandeered a civilian suit, a cane and
hat, and blithely went down the gangplank. He was taken immediately to
London where he had an audience with General Eisenhower. The General
issued to Vozic, now to be called Dr. Reuben Rabinovitch, a signed order
empowering him tp use any forces of the Allies for whatever purpose.
Rabinovitch then cross the channel, proceeded down
the coast and with the help of an armoured column moved into Bordeaux
(portions of which were still held by the Germans) and recovered his
wife, a French Catholic woman, and his two eldest sons, Alexander and
Steven, along with his wife's mother and, I believe, her father.
I believe he left his family in the British Isles and
Rabinovitch returned to Paris where I met him almost a year later when
the war ended.
Now to the background information that I gleaned from
Dr. Rabinovitch and other sources, primarily Frank Bartlett.
The elder Rabinovitch, Reuben's father, had emigrated
for one reason or another from Russia sometime around the revolution
When and where Reuben Rabinovitch was born, I never
asked, but he did attend schools in Montreal. He gained his doctor's
degree and had a leaning toward neurosurgery. He stated to me upon
entering practice about 1936 the practice of neurosurgery was somewhat
restricted in Canada and the United States and,
He then went to Paris where he met and married his
French wife. They started their family and then the war came along. He
continued his practice in Paris without interference from the Germans
after the capture of Paris.
During this time, in an effort to do something
constructive, he and several other persons organized an escape
committee, among them a couple of the people I met in Paris while in his
company. It was while engaged in this practice of helping evadees that
he was captured.
Dr. Rabinovitch, incidentally, was made several
offers from book publishers and movie producers to do his story, but his
feeling was that too many people could be harmed by being specific and
he would never give his permission. It is for this reason I have
respected his wishes and have not named names or events.
His ability with languages was superb. Hence the
impression he had given me as to being a New York boy, there was none of
the "oot" and "aboot" of the Canadian, unless he wanted to use it. He
got a kick out of imitating my Montana accent, he called it flat, hard
Dr. Rabinovitch returned to
Montreal shortly after the war where he and his wife had two more boys
and, I believe, one little girl. He obtained a Fellowship with the
Montreal Neurologic Institute and practiced at RoyaI-Victoria Hospital.
Frank Bartlett states that after the death of Dr.
Rabinovitch, he believes in the late '60's, he has on several occasions
attempted to locate Mrs. Rabinovitch and the family, but has been
unsuccessful and he believes they may have returned to France where her
Cordially submitted to all the
Stalag XVII-B and VII-A.
K. . Kurtenbach
Former Camp Leader
Stalags XVII-B and VII--A
Page last revised 05/14/2008