Victim of Hitler's Oppression Serves America in Gratitude
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 15, 2005 Adolf Hitler craved power and hated people who opposed his world vision. He also loathed the world's religions, considering them obstacles to his dream of global conquest.
Joseph Kusy, a 65-year-old naturalized American citizen, said he and his mother were taken out of Poland during World War II to live and labor in Nazi Germany -- two people among millions ensnared by Hitler's evil ambition.
The Nazis "enslaved the people," Kusy observed, and were no different from the Taliban of Afghanistan or the Baathist thugs of the now-deposed Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.
"I think I owe my life to the United States," said Kusy, a retired U.S. Navy veteran now living in California.
Kusy was born in Poland to Catholic parents on May 7, 1940, a few months after the start of World War II.
Hitler's pathological hatred would cause the murder of 6 million Jews. Three million Polish Jews died during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
What's little known, Kusy noted, is that an equal number of Polish Catholics also perished during Nazi rule. The Nazi chieftain also had no use for Catholics. After his appointment as Reich Chancellor in 1933, Hitler began a systemic campaign to eliminate the power of the Catholic Church in Germany.
By 1939, the Nazis had broken up most Catholic schools, trade unions and youth associations across Germany. Emboldened by the Reich's bloodless annexations of Austria and Czechoslovakia, Hitler set his sights on Poland, a country with a Catholic majority-population.
About 3.5 million Jews were also living in Poland at that time. Comprising 10 percent of the Polish population, it was the largest Jewish community in Europe.
The Nazis invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939 and the country succumbed within the month. Kusy said his father, a civil servant, was killed during the chaos that ensued during the occupation.
The young Kusy accompanied his mother to Germany in 1942, where she performed slave labor to support the Nazi war effort.
Kusy vividly remembers one day when he and his mother were living in Dresden, Germany. She was a seamstress, he said, at a parachute factory. On Feb. 13, 1945, bombs began to fall on Dresden, kicking off a three-day British-American aerial assault on the city.
He was caught outside and locked out of the shelters as air raid sirens shrieked and bombs rained down. Miraculously, the boy survived the explosions and firestorms that destroyed the city.
"I woke up -- I guess a concussion knocked me out," Kusy recalled.
Seeing the war as lost, Hitler shot and killed himself in a Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945. The German armed forces formally surrendered on May 8, 1945 and Kusy and his mother were liberated by U.S. troops.
During the next five years Kusy and his mother lived at various displaced person camps in Germany.
During his time in the camps, Kusy said he remembers always being hungry and constantly searching for food.
"I've eaten barbequed dog," he recalled, noting he'd often go into the nearby woods and fields to pick mushrooms and blueberries to supplement his diet.
During these forays, he noted he'd often hear explosions as the Americans blew up underground Nazi military bunkers.
In 1950, Kusy and his mother immigrated to the United States and lived in Ithaca, Mich., for a time.
In March 1959, Kusy joined the U.S. Navy and became a heating/air-conditioning specialist. After five years on active duty, he joined the Naval Reserve and eventually retired as a chief petty officer with 30 years of military service. Kusy said his son, Jonathan, is a captain in the U.S. Air Force.
"I went to college because of the GI Bill," the senior Kusy said, noting he owes "a lot" to the military.
Since 1971 Kusy has resided in Manteca, Calif., located about 90 miles east of San Francisco. He is also a state of California retiree and a licensed childcare provider.