The luckiest man alive escapes death on D-Day
“I am the luckiest man alive,” claims eighty-nine year old Rudolph Scheffrahn, pouring slivovitz into three small, heavily cut crystal goblets and handing two of them to the two men in our group of four. He waves the bottle in the air. “This stuff saved my life.”
The national drink of most of the Slavic Balkan states, slivovitz is a strong plum brandy with a high alcohol content.
A native of the Province of East Prussia, Scheffrahn was drafted into the German army in 1939. By the winter of 1944, Scheffrahn’s battalion and many other German regiments were crippled by heavy casualties and massive loss of life. Many of the battered, war-scarred German platoons met in Hungary to regroup, his batallion among them.
“We were tired and hungry,” remembers Scheffrahn. “Then we got word that the German SS troops were on their way to recruit us to join with them in fighting Allied forces. That meant Normandy and I wanted nothing to do with it.”
Determined to have one night of pleasure before his certain death, Scheffrahn made his way to the nearest town.
“I was so hungry,” he grimly explains. “I knew what being recruited into the German SS meant.” He shakes his head and crosses his arms over his chest.
“I had no money, but I had a watch. A good watch. So when I got to the town, I sold it. It was worth much more than I got for it, but at least now I had a little money. I was hungry, really hungry, so I found a restaurant, sat down and ordered the biggest steak they had!” Scheffrahn sips his slivovitz and chuckles.
“They brought my steak and I asked what kind of liquor the restaurant had. The waiter brought me a glass of slivovitz. I had never had slivovitz and I didn't know what it was. It was pretty good. I ate my steak and drank another slivovitz, then another and I don’t know how many I drank. I ate and drank up all the money I got for selling my watch. But I was overcharged by the restaurant owner and now penniless. I could hardly walk when I got up to leave.”
Scheffrahn takes another sip of his slivovitz and continues with his story. “I guess the owner felt bad about overcharging me because he handed me a full bottle of slivovitz as I stumbled out the door. Maybe he was glad to get rid of me.”
“Well, I’ll never know how I got back to the camp," Scheffrahn continues, "I was so full of slivovitz that I had no sense of direction. But I finally made it. I found my cot and fell on it and passed out.”
After another sip of the liquor, Scheffrahn’s enraptured audience urges him to tell more of his story.
“I woke up sometime in the night and I had to go, you know, I really had to go. But I was still drunk and couldn’t find the door, so I just went to a corner and relieved myself.” He laughs. “The guy who was sleeping in that corner didn’t like that a bit. He was mad. So I gave him my bottle of slivovitz that the restaurant owner had given me, you know, to keep him quiet.”
Unfortunately, or in Scheffrahn’s case, luckily, someone else went to the Commander and told him about the incident.
Scheffrahn was called in and severely reprimanded by the Commander.
“He told me that I was not worthy of the SS,” laughs Scheffrahn. “He told me he would close his eyes for five minutes and if I knew what was best for me I would be gone. I turned around and got the hell out of there and never looked back.”
The luckiest man alive rose from his chair and toasted his audience of four with a Salut and wishes for our continued good health.
To learn more about Rudolph Scheffrahn and Steven Fromholz, Texas Poet Laureate, go to http://www.nowpublic.com/texas_poet_laureate_brings_new_rhythm_to_elderly_mans_life