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History Unplugged Podcast

with Scott Rank

How a Member of Easy Company’s “Band of Brothers” Found an Unlikely Friendship with a Former Nazi

00:00 38:33
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One of the best-known screen depictions of World War 2 is Band of Brothers. This HBO miniseries followed the real-life Easy Company of the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division, and their mission in World War II Europe, from Operation Overlord, through V-J Day. Today’s episode focuses on one of the members of this company, Sgt. Don Malarkey. He was a hero for his service in World War II, especially in the Battle of the Bulge, yet he came to the brink of suicide, haunted by the memories of the German soldiers he had killed. Across the ocean, Fritz Engelbert was shackled in shame for having been a pawn of Hitler—he too had fought in the Battle of the Bulge—but for the Germans. He could not find peace.

Today’s guest is Bob Welch, author of Saving My Enemy: How Two WWII Soldiers Fought against Each Other and Later Forged a Friendship That Saved Their Lives. It is a rare WWII story with a happy ending. In an age when we see nothing but division in the news, the public needs inspiration from stories like this: two mortal enemies coming together after 60 years to offer each other forgiveness and reconciliation. This is the touching true story of how their unlikely friendship, forged in their 80s, dissolved six decades of guilt and shame that had pushed both men to despair.

Their boyhood could not have been more different. Don grew up scrappy and happy in Oregon while Fritz was regimented and indoctrinated by the Hitler Youth Both men fought in the Battle of the Bulge; Don as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army who served a longer continuous stretch on the bloody front lines than any man in Easy Company, and Fritz as a private in the Panzer-Lerh-Division Don was welcomed home as a celebrity while Fritz returned to live years in the obscurity of a remote German village Each was plagued with immense guilt—Don for the lives he took and Fritz over his participation in the Nazi war effort They met on the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Both scarred. Both haunted. The friendship they began that day saved their lives.
June 01, 2021
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Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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