US War Orphan Seeks Answers in Germany About Father’s Death in WWII

US War Orphan  Seeks Answers in Germany About Father's Death in WWII

Bruce never knew his dad. His dad died in WWII three month’s before he was born. Bruce Brodowski wanted to know more. The Gelsenkirchen historical circle knew from witness testimonies the exact corner Edward Brodowski’s tank was hit by a Panzer shell. They knew the details of the battle. Bruce needed to go there.

​​US War Orphan Seeks Answers In Germany About Father’s Death In WWII

Bruce never knew his dad. His dad died in WWII three month’s before he was born. BruceBrodowski wanted to know more. The Gelsenkirchen Historical Circle knew from witness testimonies the exact corner Edward Brodowski’s tank was when hit by a Panzer shell. They also knew the details of the battle.

Author Bruce Brodowski embarked on an once in a life time incredible journey to reconnect and bring closure with his dad Edward Brodowski. He had written a book several years ago “The Dad I Never Knew, A War Orphan’s Search For Inner Healing.” For his 70th birthday, he wanted to visit where his dad died and then visit his dad’s grave in Margraten, Netherlands. New information was revealed through social media, Facebook contacts, and networking.

On Monday June 22, 2015, Bruce Brodowski, with his wife Ellen, met with Egon Kopatz and the Gelsenkirchen Historical Circle. They walked to the exact corner of where EdBrodowski’s tank was located. Christiane Rautenberg, a reporter from WAZ newspaper, published the story. “We held hands in a minute of silence. I thought I could feel my dad’s presence. It was a spiritual experience of closeness.” Bruce reported. “I am not angry at the German boys in the Panzer. They were just doing their job. I am just sad that daddy didn’t come home.”

Back at Gelsenkirchen Historical Center, Mayor Thomas Klasmann of GelsenkirchenNordwas waiting to present Bruce with a plague to the city. Bruce then traveled to Linne, Netherlands to visit the site of where his dad’s tank was pictured rescuing the wounded. New contact information revealed the exact location. Then on to Margraten, Netherlands to visit Edward Brodowski’s grave. The dad he never knew. An experience he will never forget.


Bruce Brodowski

Published in the Miami Herald  February 4, 1985


Somewhere in Germany in 1945, close to the end of the war, a tank is hit, a soldier dies. His pregnant wife awaits his safe return in New York State only to receive the dreaded telegram – killed in action.


Several weeks later his son is born, the son he never knew.


            It never seemed unusual to me that Dad wasn’t there. Mom never remarried and I guess she told me early in life that Dad was buried in Holland.


            When I was old enough to understand, Mom sat me down and showed me Dads’ picture, his belongings that were returned, the Silver Star and Purple Heart. Somehow, now, these don’t seem to be an adequate substitute for a Dad.


            I often wonder what we would have done together. He liked deer hunting as attested by the mounted deer head hanging in his mother’s dining room. Ah, those weekend hunting and fishing trips.


Just me and Dad.


            Or maybe we would have thrown a baseball around in the summer; or a football; or played basketball or tennis. Yeah, tennis!  I remember his old wooden tennis racket gathering dust in the attic. He would have taught me tennis and we would have played together.


Just me and Dad.


Someday a man will be kneeling next to a grave in Holland with a flower in his hand, a lump in his throat, and a tear in his eye.


And it will be just me and Dad.


The dad I never knew. And the flower will be left behind by the son he never knew.


Published Article:

WAZ – The West German General …

NRZ – The Neue Ruhr / Neue Rhein

WR – The Westfälische Rundschau on …

WP – The Westfalenpost on …

The Iserlohner circle indicator and …

DerWesten – The news portal …

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US war orphan in search of clues in Hassel 24.06.2015

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Local history

US war orphan in search of clues in Hassel

06/23/2015 | 11:00 clock

Looking for clues in Hassel: Ellen and Bruce Brodowski assist in the research of Egon Kopatzfrom historical district Bergmannsglück  and translator Wolfgang Bollmann

GelsenkirchenHassel. GelsenkirchenHassel– so far Bruce Brodowski only knew of his father Edward from the letters to his mother – now the Americans went there in search of clues: After his father, who was there as a soldier killed by a grenade.

A few parked cars, a restaurant, further back the Hasseler St. Michael’s Church: completely unspectacular acts August-Schmidt-Platz on this Monday morning. That this was once where history was made – one that should shape the life of Bruce Brodowski as little else – it indicates nothing. He put his arms around his wife Ellen and Egon Kopatz, the Hasseler local historian, the American closed his eyes and was still in the memory of his father Edward, who was killed 70 years ago on this very spot by a German grenade.

Meter by meter,  Kopatz from historical district Hassel / Bergmannsglück described the events of March 30, 1945: “There stood the German Tiger tank, with its six-man crew, all young men 17-25, camouflaged under a weeping willow on the corner Otte– / Valentin street ; There the Shermanpanzer fumbled with the commander Brodowski and two soldiers in the street Valentin; there lived the two eyewitnesses of the attack, who told me about their experiences shortly before their death; and there the German tank was completely destroyed by a low-flying aircraft ”

“Full circle”

Bruce Brodowski  suffered more from the loss of his father.

Kopatz and colleagues encounter had meticulously prepared after the Horster Andreas Jordan had made contact  by early 2015 Gelsenkirchen center to contact Brodowski from Charlotte in North Carolina. This became aware of the association for the local treatment of the Nazi era and the culture of remembrance through the website. “In an article about theWAZ first US tanks to Gelsenkirchen area I came across Mr. Kopatz – already the connection was  there,” said Jordan.

For Brodowski (69) it seems to have paid off: “It’s good that I have undertaken this long journey. I feel a spiritual connection to my father; I’ve missed him all my life. “Born three months after the death of his father, he grew up with his aunt and uncle after the cancer death of his mother in 1955.

No anger, only disappointment

Was he angry with the Germans? The pensioner shakes his head. “No, just disappointed because I had no father, from whom I could learn fishing or baseball games.”

Only in 2005, he began to collect facts about his father. “The tank driver, who had escaped from the Germans in Hassel, had told me at that time about him. After that, I worked with the letters to my mother  and researched the way the 8th Armored Division of Polsum toHassel. “The result was the book” The Dad I Never Knew “(The father, whom I never met). In the end however, it was his wife Ellen (68), which encouraged him to continue the search for clues on the spot – or complete. “For me, an inner circle has closed on this day.”

Christiane Rautenberg

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Looking for clues in Hassel: Ellen and Bruce Brodowski (. 2 and 3rd from left). Assist in the research were Egon Kopatz from historical district Bergmannsglück (2nd from right) and translator Wolfgang Bollmann (r.).

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Bruce Brodowski (center) suffered more from the loss of his father. Photo: ThomasSchmidtke

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