Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day - Francis Slanger

Not many Jewish women have had ships named in their memory, but it is an honor that Lieutenant Frances Slanger earned without question. One of four nurses who braved the waves and the Germans to come ashore on the Normandy Beachhead (D-Day, June 10, 1944), she later became the only nurse killed by the enemy in the European theater of war.

Frances Slanger (1913-1944, born Freidel Yachet Schlanger - her name was changed by U.S. immigration officials) was seven years old when she arrived in Roxbury, Massachusetts, with her family from Lodz, Poland. When Frances enrolled in the Boston Nursing School and then found work at Boston City Hospital, she was fulfilling a childhood dream. As news of the horrors facing Jews in Europe crossed the Atlantic, and with memories of her childhood during World War I in Europe, Frances knew what she had to do...she enlisted and demanded to be sent overseas.

As a war nurse, Frances was awed by the dedication and courage of the soldiers she treated. She saw how much they had sacrificed of their comfort and basic needs in order to fight the Nazis. On the morning of October 21, 1944, Frances wrote a beautiful letter to Stars and Stripes, the magazine of the U.S. Army, praising the bravery that she witnessed daily:

“We have learned a great deal about our American boy and the stuff he is made of. The wounded do not cry. Their buddies come first. The patience and determination they show, the courage and fortitude they have is sometimes awesome to behold...” (For a full version of her article, click here.)

One hour after completing her letter, a German shell hit the nurses’ tent. Frances took shrapnel in the stomach, and even in those last few hours of her life, Frances’ first concern was for the other wounded.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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