WWII Top Secret Artist - NBC 10 Philadelphia

WWII Top Secret Artist

How a Jewish boy from Germany ended up in fighting for the U.S. in a top secret unit during World War II.

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    WWII Top Secret Artist
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    Si Lewen

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    "I grew up in Germany as "That Polish Jew Boy!" Si Lewen recalls. And in his mind as a young artist, was the anti-semitism that would shape everything he did on canvas.

    "President Hindenburg, the German President, had appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor. I turned to my parents. I was 14 years old and I told them, 'I'm getting out of here!'"

    Si fled the Holocaust to live in New York, the land of his dreams. But not long after he got there a policeman in Central Park overheard his accent...

    "He took out his club, his Billy Club and he started beating me. I screamed! I screamed! And then I must have lost consciousness," Si says.

    Si says he tried to kill himself after that happened, but the teenager realized there had to be more to America as it fought Adolf Hitler in World War II.

    "I enlisted. I felt, first of all, it was a way of getting even against the anti-Semites everywhere!"

    Si Lewen would fight for the United States in a top secret unit that went from battle to battle in Europe and convinced German soldiers to surrender, using giant loudspeakers, and his knowledge of the German mind. Si remembers shouting out, "Save your lives! Go back to Germany! Make babies! Rebuild your country! It's in ruins! Your country's in ruins right now!"

    So many Germans surrendered that Si was inducted into the French Legion of Honor.

    Si had gone ashore at Normandy and liberated the bleak concentration camps and his art reflected his experiences with sketches of death ad stark scenes. Back from the war, the brilliant landscapes he wanted to paint turned to the shades of what he could not forget. 

    "I felt I was back in the war. And that's what most of my work consists of. And I don't fight it anymore. This is me. This is my art." 

    Many of his paintings are haunting, but there are therapy for Si, with light at the end of the darkness.

    "After all the bleak and black, I gotta have color," Si says. "I gotta have sunshine."

    Now, at 93, with his wife Rennie at his side, Si Lewen, a product of men and their wars, sees peace.

    "Women are becoming Presidents and Prime Ministers. It's a peaceful revolution. No shells being fired. That's what gives me hope!"