PVT Henry Irving Tannenbaum
Company F, 331st Infantry, 83rd Division Division,
Killed in Action 11 January, 1945
in the Battle of the Bulge, near Ottre
-- Samuel Victor Tannenbaum --
Pictured here from right to left: Private Henry Irving Tannenbaum, Soldier,
Sunday School Teacher, Scholar; Bertha Fiedel Tannenbaum, Athlete, Bookkeeper,
Concert Pianist; Samuel Victor Tannenbaum their Soul/Sole Surviving Son, aged two
in Livingston Manor, New York, July 1944.
Henry, my father, was originally buried in Henri Chapelle Cemetery in
Belgium. In 1948 his remains were returned to the United States for
interment in Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, New York.
The delay was caused in part by my mother's reluctance to approve removal
of my father's remains. She believed it would adversely affect my war
orphan benefits. During that same period, my father's mother died. His
sisters claimed their mother's death was caused by a broken heart. My
parents' families became estranged. I never saw my father's family (they
lived in the same county) nor my father's grave (about twenty miles from
my mother's apartment) until I was thirteen.
My mother's estrangement from her husband's family developed into
isolation from her own family and ultimately psychotic behavior. She
believed her husband was alive (he was on a series of secret missions for
the FBI, she said) and she "shouted" to him for the next thirty eight
years, until her own death.
Because of my mother's mental state and isolation from both families, I
raised myself. I took care of household chores including shopping and
paying the bills until I graduated from High School. Then I moved into my own
apartment and went to a tuition-free college. I supported myself with a War
Orphan's Scholarship,supplemented with either full or part time jobs.
My mother was evicted from her apartment and sent to a state mental institution.
The eviction destroyed all artifacts (pictures and papers) of my family. Until
relatively recently, I knew very little about my parents or their life together.
The following biographies were put together only after my involvement
with the American World War II Orphans Network (AWON). My fellow war
orphans encouraged me to research the facts of my parents' lives. For
that I am eternally grateful. They also motivated me to write a chapter in "Lost
in the Victory - Reflections of American War Orphans of World War II."
My father was the youngest of three children and the only boy. His parents
loved him very much. He printed on a picture of himself at age four: "I LOVE MYSELF."
My mother was the youngest of four children and the only girl. Her father died when
she was a teenager. As the only girl she was thrust in the role of assistant cook
and maid for her brothers.
My mother and father both graduated from Eastern District High School in Brooklyn,
New York, but apparently they did not know each other in high school. My father was
an idealist and an intellectual. He skipped a year in high school. He was Captain of
the Chess Club and was a member of the Latin, Greek and Hebrew Clubs. My mother was
more of a pragmatist, a talented musician and a superb athlete. She was a member of
the Accounting, Rhythm and Swimming Clubs.
I also graduated from Eastern District High School. I skipped a year. I was a member
of the National Honor Society and the Handball Team. My parents and I had the same
English and History teachers. Neither teacher remembered my parents.
After high school, they were introduced by a man who became the Executive Director of
the local "Y." Years later I worked with this man. The matchmaker did not remember
My father graduated from Brooklyn College in 1936. He was President of the Classical Club.
Once I discovered (in 1996) that my father and I had graduated from the same college,
I contacted about a dozen of his classmates. They were are all retired teachers, principals,
college professors, medical doctors and lawyers. none of them remembered my father after
sixty years. One classmate is a retired Dean of Brooklyn College. He was there when I attended.
He was Treasurer of the Classical Club. HE WAS IN MY FATHER'S REGIMENT. Even he does not
remember my father. On March 26, 2000, I presented a copy of "Lost in the Victory" to Brooklyn
College President Christoph M Kimmich, who told me he was a German World War II Orphan.
Some time after they were married on March 22, 1941 on the Lower East Side of New York
City, my parents moved to Washington, D.C., where I was born on July 10, 1942.
My father worked two jobs. He was a bureaucrat in the Office of Price Administration
and he taught Sunday School at a temple (the identity is still unknown) in Washington, D.C.
He was drafted on February 14, 1944 in Washington, D.C. He trained at Fort
Meade, Maryland, came across on a troop ship to England, conducted religious services for the
troops in England, and fought in France in August, 1944 (locations still unknown). He was in
Luxembourg in October, 1944 where he received a medal from General Robert Macon. He was wounded
(date and location are unknown) during the Luxembourg Campaign. I am now a member of the
Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPA). He returned to service on December 6, 1944 and was
KIA on January 11, 1945 near Ottre, Belgium.
My father was in a rifle platoon. Near Ottre, they were ambushed, and only the Platoon Sergeant,
Harry Shoemaker survived by playing dead. When the Sargent returned to regimental headquarters,
he told the sentry, Corporal Tony Vaccaro the details of the massacre at Ottre. The Germans
had murdered the wounded men who cried out in pain and stripped the corpses of their watches
and other valuables. Then their tanks rolled over the dying and crushing them to death.
When Vaccaro and Shoemaker returned to the site the next morning, the carnage was horrible,
though not the corpse of my father. His body was straight as though he had died instantly.
The others were all twisted from writhing in pain when they finally died.
Tony Vaccaro took a photograph of my father lying in the snow. Tony took over 4,000 images
of his regiment. Tony was not a combat photographer. He was just a soldier with a camera.
He later would become a world renown photo journalist for LIFE and LOOK magazines. Tony
entitled the photograph "White Death: Photo Requiem for a dead soldier, Private Henry I.
Tannenbaum." Tony wanted the picture to be remembered as a beautiful death in the same
fashion as a classical music requiem is beautiful. The photograph "White Death" has been on
traveling exhibits throughout Europe for more than fifty years.
I recently discovered that I have a genetic blood disorder called Von Willebrand's disease.
It is similar to hemophilia, but not as severe. If my father had Von Willebrand's disease,
he may have bled to death very quickly, which may account for his body being so straight.
In November 1996. I attended an AWON Conference in Washington, D.C. as did several
Luxembourgers who wanted to meet the children of their liberators. I invited about half a
dozen Luxembourgers to our home. One Renee Schloesser, a journalist, published my story in a
series of articles in a Luxembourg newspaper. Another, Jim Schiltz, a retired professional
fireman, was also impressed with my story. When he returned to Luxembourg, Jim found Tony
Vaccaro's book of photographs of the 331st Regiment in Luxembourg. Jim also discovered that
Tony was alive and living in New York City.
We visited Tony and his family in 1997. He gave me a professional print of the photograph,
"White Death" which now hangs in our home. Tony's greatest joy beside meeting my wife Rachel
and our daughter Lisa was taking a picture of my father's grave in New York with an American Flag
next to it. For Tony, that picture brought him closure after more than fifty years.
Renee, Jim and his wife Odette and Constant Goergen, President of U.S. Veterans Friends, Luxembourg
and his wife Berthe visited our home several times before we finally flew to Luxembourg in 1998.
In addition to a glorious reunion with our "old" Luxembourg friends, we met Luxembourg War Orphans.
We visited the site where my father was killed. The Luxembourgers placed a wreath at a tree near
the site. Renee learned to chant the Prayer for Mourning called the Kaddish. She chanted it in
perfect Hebrew! We visited Henri Chapelle Cemetery. We visited the Cemetery in Luxembourg. We
visited the AWOn monument in Luxembourg. We attended a special Mass with the Grand Duke and his
family. It was the trip of a lifetime.
I may not have had the opportunity to tell my parents that I love them, but by telling their story
on this web site, I believe I am honoring them and that is after all what the Commandment says.