“Just existing became what was important,” says 87-year-old Frank Kravetz, former captive of Nuremberg Prison Camp. “Yet even as I struggled with the day-to-day sadness and despair, I never once had any regrets that I signed up to serve.”
An extended tour of Nazi prisons camps as a wounded POW scratching for survival wasn’t what Frank had in mind when he signed up to serve his country in World War II. Nonetheless, Frank’s life took a dramatic turn on November 2, 1944, when his B-17 was filled with holes by German fighters. Frank was hit, bleeding profusely. He and his crew parachuted out of the nose-diving plane. When Frank hit the ground, German soldiers immediately seized him.
Thus began “a lousy existence”—“Hell’s journey,” as Frank dubs it.
How did he survive? “All I can say is that the good Lord was watching out for me,” Frank says today, finally telling his story in a riveting memoir, titled Eleven Two: One WWII Airman’s Story of Capture, Survival and Freedom.
There, Frank provides the secret to his survival: “Pray. It helps.”
Frank recalls one especially desperate moment. Allied planes were bombing the area. The German guards in the prison camp took cover in bunkers, leaving Frank and his fellow Americans in their beds, at the mercy of their own bombers. Frank was terrified. He gripped both sides of his mattress. As he did, he discovered some loose string. He broke off about 20 inches and began tying 10 little knots. He created a rosary.
“That was now my rosary that I used to ask the Lord to help me,” recalls Frank. “My bed stopped shaking … and my anxiety lifted.”
As he prayed, Frank promised God he would never complain about anything again if he survived. That’s a promise Frank has kept, and a message he shares with young people today.
This Veterans’ Day, let’s remember the gratitude of men like Frank Kravetz, and, in turn, extend our gratitude to these men who served this nation with no complaints and no regrets.
For Catholic Exchange.com and Ave Maria Radio, I’m Paul Kengor.