George Bader was always the pillar of strength in his family: A father of three who worked two jobs to support his wife Ruthie and their children. But it wasn’t until almost 20 years after his death in 1998 that some of his most fascinating secrets came to life.
“Someone in the family says let’s do something with the letters. They’re an incredible treasure trove," said Jeff Bader, George's son.
A few years back, Jeff and his family found nearly 300 handwritten letters from George during World War II. They were addressed to Ruthie and his daughter Shirley, who was the couple's only child at the time. George was stationed abroad with the U.S. Army and was among the thousands of American soldiers to liberate Nazi concentration camps across Europe.
“This is dated May 24, 1945," Jeff reads one of the letters aloud. “The first day in Austria we came across a concentration camp.. they were just a mass of skeletons, just barely able to walk and they were begging us for food. I noticed a restaurant on the corner and I must have sent in about 200 people. I told the owner that he must feed these people until he runs out of food.”
George wrote the letters with meticulous handwriting using V-mail, short for Victory Mail. It was the main and secure method of correspondence for U.S. soldiers stationed abroad. Jeff’s wife, Lauri, took the initiative, working with Jeff’s family in Israel, to self-publish a book with all of George’s letters clearly transcribed. The book is titled “Your Loving Husband & Father,” which is how George signed every one of his letters.
“There are a million stories about the war and the Holocaust and Jeff’s Dad, George, is another one of those stories. How an unassuming man from the Lower East Side and then Brooklyn, he had to leave a wife and child behind. The sacrifices that people had to make in those days were incredible and then he went on to do some very brave and arguably heroic things," said Lauri.
After the war, George and Ruthie went on to have two more kids and watched their family grow. The family always knew the letters existed, but they never delved deeper to learn more until after he passed. The family now hope this book has created a lasting legacy for the man who was so much more than a loving husband and father.