Raymond Weinstein remembers walking out of the movie theater in 1960, disappointed and confused by the postwar Germany portrayed in the Elvis Presley movie G.I. Blues.
Both Presley and Weinstein were stationed in Germany in the late 1950s, but Presley’s experience received the Hollywood treatment. Missing from the glossy musical comedy were the racial tensions, German-American conflicts and poverty that Weinstein witnessed in Nuremberg.
“The movie had nothing to do with the real experiences of soldiers,” Weinstein said, vowing to one day write a book setting the record straight.
More than 40 years later, Weinstein, 72, a recently retired sociology professor at University of South Carolina Aiken, has completed his task.
The novel, Soldiers’ Field, tells the real experiences of Weinstein and other Signal Corps soldiers through a fictional character, David Streiber. Although World War II ended 14 years earlier, it was still a surreal experience for a Jewish teenager from Brooklyn to stay in the same barracks as Hitler’s elite Schutzstaffel, or SS force.
The book’s title derives from the stadium that played host many Nazi Party rallies. Americans renamed it Soldiers’ Field and used it as their own parade ground and baseball diamond. It’s also a figurative reference to the pleasures that Germany presented for a peacetime soldier.
“All of Germany was a place to play for soldiers,” Weinstein said. “You could have a good time.”
German women were attracted to American soldiers, often because they were rich by German standards. But even that pleasure carried an element of racial tension. Only a certain class of German women would date the black soldiers and other German women wouldn’t speak to them.
“One wouldn’t mix with the other,” Weinstein said.
There were also frequent drills and field maneuvers in anticipation of an attack from the Soviets across the border. But the soldiers were certain the next war would be nuclear.
“There was always a certain tension,” Weinstein said.