Born on the Wrong Side of the Fence

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“Unquestionably,” Bruno Ehlich writes in the introduction to Born on the Wrong Side of the Fence, “one thing in this world is that one cannot choose his or her nationality, race or time. Therefore I did just that, arriving at 1700 hours on the 20th of March, 1936, into this crazy world, at a crazy time, on the wrong side of the fence!

“I was one of millions. Vienna, Austria, in March of 1936, was in turmoil. The cause was Hitler and his Nazis. Most people today know about this totally absurd time in history which destroyed millions of human beings, shifted thousands onto other continents, split families apart and created the biggest shift of people from one continent to another. Little did I know but I was to be sucked into this mess years later.”

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Bruno Ehlich was 9 years old and in the Hitler Youth when the village he was living in was liberated by the 90th Infantry Division. As American tanks approached the village, all but a few of the SS soldiers fled, and Bruno was tasked with carrying ammunition to a small anti-tank gun. The gun was nicknamed the “Door Knocker” due to its inability to penetrate the tanks’ armor. As one shell bounced harmlessly off an approaching tank, Bruno went to get another shell just as the tank fired, demolishing the gun, killing its crew, and wounding Bruno. A tanker grabbed Bruno and asked him where the Germans were, and Bruno directed him to a secret passage in the Leuchtenburg castle where civilians and soldiers were sheltered. Wounded as he was, Bruno was happy to see his village liberated. He would eventually emigrate to Australia and become a sergeant in the Royal Australian Air Force. Blessed with a photographic memory and hoping to find and thank the American tanker who captured him, Bruno committed his memories to paper in this riveting memoir of life as a young boy in the middle of World War II.

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