Survivor Profiles: Walter Reed
I feel strongly about the history that I have lived through and what Nazism and any other kind of persecution in the world means to individuals and does to individuals. Therefore it is important while some of us are still alive to document and reveal how things were.
Born Werner Rindsberg in a German village, Reed was arrested at age 14 along with his father in 1938 on Kristallnacht — also called “The Night of Broken Glass” — when Germans vandalized synagogues and Jewish-owned stores. Reed was released and sent with other children to Belgium through the efforts of a rescue committee, eventually moving on to southern France after the Nazis invaded Belgium in 1940.
He was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. Both of his parents and his two younger brothers were sent to Poland and killed.
In 1941, Reed moved to the United States, where he had relatives. After arriving in New York City, he was drafted into the Army and traveled back to France, where he served in a military intelligence unit. After Reed returned to the U.S. at the war’s end, he kept quiet about growing up in Nazi Germany because he feared further anti-Semitism and wanted to put his past behind him. He told people he was born in Brooklyn and his parents had died in a car crash, she said, and he also changed his German name to one that sounded more American.
Reed studied journalism at the University of Missouri, and moved to Chicago in 1958, where he spent 30 years as director of public relations for the National Automatic Merchandising Association, the national trade association for the vending machine industry. He later opened his own consulting business after retiring. In the 1990s, Reed returned to France and visited the refugee camp where he had stayed as a teen, and learned that others who had been there were still alive. Meeting with them, and joining the local Rotary Club, encouraged him to share his story publicly.