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Brightwood Boys, The History of the Men from the North End of
Springfield, Massachusetts, During World War II
by Christopher P. Montagna

A Witness to the Holocaust


On April 4, 1945, Sherwood “Shed” Diamond and the members of the 345th Infantry Regiment were moving through the area south of the city of Gotha, Germany when they unexpectedly came across the ghastly scene of the Ohrdruf concentration camp, which had been abandoned by the German guards. The Ohrdruf hellhole was one of many sub camps of the nearby Buchenwald Concentration Camp.


Ohrdruf, also known as Ohrdruf-Nord, was the first Nazi concentration camp to be discovered while it still had inmates living inside of it, although 9,000 prisoners had already been evacuated from Ohrdruf on April 2, 1945 and marched to the main camp at Buchenwald.

The following is a description of the camp by General Eisenhower of his visit to the camp on April 12, 1945:

. . . the most interesting--although horrible--sight that I encountered during the trip was a visit to a German internment camp near Gotha. The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to 'propaganda'.


The horror of the holocaust would be witnessed by other Brightwood Boys, including Edward O’Brien who along with his battalion liberated a camp in Germany.


In the Pacific, Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Harry Etkin was serving aboard the USS Snook, a 1525-ton Gato class submarine. Harry was the twenty-two-year-old son of Harry, Sr., who supported his family by working as a peddler, and Lena Etkin.  The Etkin's emigrated from Russia and were living at 1563 Dwight Street. 


The Snook’s first war patrol began in April, taking her to the East China Sea where she laid mines. On May 5 and 7, 1942 the Snook sank three Japanese cargo ships. The submarine's second and third patrols, in the same area during June-July and August-October, cost the enemy three more freighters and a good-sized transport. The Snook’s fourth patrol, in the Marianas area between late October and early December 1943, produced two more sinkings. In early January 1944 she left Pearl Harbor for a return to the Western Pacific area. Snook's sinkings in this, her most successful war patrol, included a converted gunboat, three cargo carriers and a passenger-cargo ship.


Following an overhaul on the West Coast, Snook conducted an unproductive war patrol into Japanese waters during June-August 1944, but this was followed in September-November by a seventh patrol that sank three ships .The Snook’s next assignment was in the northern Pacific, off the Kurile Islands in December-February, but she found the area to be unfruitful.


She returned to the region between the Philippines and the Asian mainland for her ninth patrol. After checking in by radio on April 8, 1945 she was not heard from again. Snook's loss, with her entire crew of more than eighty officers and men, remains unexplained.  Among the crew lost that April morning was Harry Etkin, the twenty-two-year-old man from Dwight Street.