Alan Brylawski was the last operator of the Point Lookout Hotel before it closed in the 1960’s. Alan, a WWII veteran, wrote the Letter from Point Lookout Hotel in the original The Chesapeake and will soon make a reappearance with his column. The following interview with Alan Brylawski appeared in ST. MARY’S TODAY in 2005. Brylawski is a retired Realtor with Long & Foster and he and his wife Jean operated two businesses in Lexington Park for two decades, the Mr. Donut and Baskin Robbins Ice Cream.
WW II Veteran Recalls Horror of Buchenwald
HOLLYWOOD — Alan Brylawski, 85, says funny things happen at war, though some horrors still haunt him.
“I am an optimist and humorist. I don’t take life too seriously,” the World War Two veteran said.
War has been part of human culture since man got out of the cave, Brylawski says. “It’s senseless, there are no winners. We slaughter people. Everybody loses.” He said the kind of horror one man perpetrates on another during war is inconceivable, adding once the enemy is demonized everything becomes okay.
“It is either you do it or they are going to do it to you. So self preservation says you do it first,” he said. “When you see bullets pass you, there’s no question you are under fire. At that point the enemy becomes a demon, devoid of humanity.”
The war saw him going to France, Austria and the Bavarian Mountain retreat of Hitler.
Decorated with a Bronze Star, he makes no secret of his anti-war sentiments, but said World War II was an absolute necessity. “There’s no question about it.”
Beginning as an armor to repair small weapons, Brylawski trained as a pilot, but finally became a tech sergeant with the 93rd Chemical Battalion.
He described Adolph Hitler as a mad man who wanted to enslave the whole world. “He damn near did it,” had it not been for the Japanese waking up a sleeping giant by attacking Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt aptly called it a Day of Infamy, Brylawski said.
Jewish himself, he recalls history’s most hated villain embarked about the mad course of ridding the world of Jews, as in his sick mind they were the cause of everything bad.
“There are a few things that I try not to remember,” he said of his war experience. One of it was his visit to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp after its liberation. “The bodies were piled up like wood stacks. Those alive were walking skeletons; you could see every bone in their body.”
Buchenwald was liberated on April 11, 1945. At one of the blocks, items found included tattooed and tanned human skin, two shrunken heads of Russian POWs, and a lampshade made of human skin.
It took many, many years for Brylawski to stop seeing nightmares about the camp. “The smell is still with me. I can still smell it,” he said of the stench created by human corpses at Buchenwald.
He said luck helped him in a big way during the war. “Some people said the Lord did it. I don’t think the Lord did it, but if he did it I thank him,” he said. He explains the Lord has far more important things, managing the affairs of the universe on his plate than to turn his attention to any single person.
“Though The Battle of the Bulge was pretty very much over when we got there, some of the boys got hurt and killed” he recalls. “Overall, we are a lucky outfit.”
Brylawski said he found some of the situations he found himself in quite funny. “At one time I was made a meteorologist,” he said. He served in the 93rd Chemical Mortar Battalion, entrusted with using poison gas if a need arose.
“I am glad they never used it,” he said.