From the archives: Bremerton soldier shares Holocaust’s horrors

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Frank Wetzel’s journalism career began while he was a soldier at the end of World War II. The Bremerton native, whose illustrious journalism career included writing the preeminent history of the city’s World War II era, penned an article describing the horrors of the Holocaust.

In Sunday’s Kitsap Sun, I chronicle Wetzel’s life from a teen to his penning “Victory Gardens and Barrage Balloons.” HIs first byline? The July 31, 1945 edition of the Bremerton Sun. The topic? Wetzel’s impressions of the Buchenwald concentration camp.

The thing that impresses me most is the maturity of his writing. We’re often told journalists write the first draft of history, but Wetzel’s story here, documenting the tragedies of the Nazi death camps, feels like it could have been written yesterday.

Here’s the entire story he wrote:

Horrors of Buchenwald Told In Letter From PFC Wetzel

The Bremerton Sun, Tuesday, July 31, 1945

(The following letter to the editor was written by PFC Frank Wetzel, 19, son of Mr. and Mrs. Scott Wetzel, 1606 Gregory Way, who is now in Bavaria with the army. Pvt. Wetzel graduated mid-year from Bremerton high school to enter ASTP at the University of Idaho. After finishing there, he was sent to Buckley field in Denver, then made a plane dispatcher and transfer to Mississippi. He was then transferred to the infantry in Georgia and from there left the State for active duty in Europe where he fought with Patton’s Third army in the 76th division—editor.)

By Pfc. Frank R. Wetzel

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Wetzel in his youth.

SOMEWHERE IN EUROPE — I just returned from Buchenwald and I feel what I saw should be common knowledge to every citizen of the U.S. in order to more fully understand the cruel and sadistic nature of our recently defeated enemies. This is not the work of just a handful of men— every German condoned with his silence this project of mass butchery, and is, in part, responsible.

Buchenwald is small — only about the size of two city blocks — yet the suffering that took place there is indescribable in its scale and intensity. It is located near the city of Weimar, in a part of the most beautiful sector of Germany, but the spector of death hovering in the vicinity dins any appreciation a visitor might once have had, for it is here that over 51,000 humans were tortured, burned or starved to death.

MET BY GUIDE

A German-Jewish guide, formerly a prisoner in the camp, met us at the gate and volunteered to show us around. Three months of good food had erased all outward signs of malnutrition, but his broken English was made harder to understand by the loss of most of his front teeth, knocked out for a minor infraction of rules by an SS guard.

Our first stop was at one of the barracks, typical of the camp. It was a one-storied wooden building about 200 feet long. Along each side were bare shelves, starting with the floor and reaching the roof. These were beds. An indication of the living (?) conditions is the fact that between 700 and 900 men were crowded into these structures. The one meal per day, consisting of thin soup and bread, was not only insufficient in bulk but gave many diarrhea. The woeful lack of sanitation facilities made long lines throughout the day and night inevitable.

EIGHT OVENS

Perhaps the grimmest part of Buchenwald was the eight ovens used for burning the dead. By stuffing two bodies in each oven, 32 could be cremated per hour — even so, the Germans had to work day and night to dispose of the dead. The ashes were irregularly collected and used for fertilizer. Evidently proud of his work, the manufacturer had his name stamped on each oven. I’m sure that none of the inmates would recommend them for him, however.

I could go on — tell you about the SS men who took their children on a tour of the camp for being good, or the pitiful scratches in the concrete walls, made when prisoners were being strangled, or even about Herman Pister, the “beast of Buchenwald,” who personally murdered 2800 human beings whose only crime was the courage to cry out against the outrages of the Third Reich. But why go on? For Buchenwald is beyond description. The only way to fully believe it is to see it.

Beat blast: Santa’s schedule, annexations and a raging waterfall


Stop me if you know the words: Santa Claus is coming to town … downtown and Manette, that is. This Friday, you’ll find him in Manette and on Saturday he’ll light Bremerton’s Christmas tree near the Naval Museum.

15107272_10156447187836515_8525358591163129541_n-1You’ll get all the details about the festivities on this week’s Bremerton Beat Blast, and also these four other stories:

How the Salvation Army’s shelter, to open Dec. 19, differs from others as a “low barrier” shelter;

Bremerton’s plans to annex parts of the community not in the city, including Rocky Point and Navy Yard City;

How Bremerton’s tiniest park is being used as a lay down yard for construction;

And finally, with all this rain, your chance to see one of Bremerton’s most vibrant waterfalls.

Questions? Comments? Send them my way, to josh.farley@kitsapsun.com.

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Beat blast: Typewriter fever, signs of the times and a music legend

In a world in which typewriter stores are rare, Bremerton now has two. Typewriter Fever joins the longtime Bremerton Office Machine Company on the fifth floor of 245 Fourth Street, and, in this latest Bremerton Beat Blast, you’ll get to take a look around.

This week, I also tackle the Bremerton blue parking enforcement signs, the unsolved arson on McKenzie Avenue and the public square city officials hope to dedicate to Quincy Jones. Plus: speaking of signs, what’s going on with the most iconic of them in Manette?

Questions? Comments? Send them my way, to josh.farley@kitsapsun.com. Happy Turkey Day everyone!

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Bye bye, blue signs

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Photo by Meegan M. Reid.

By the end of the year, the blue parking enforcement signs once prevalent in downtown Bremerton will be a thing of the past. A judge ruled they violate state law and the city claims it was already beginning to replace them. The whole project will cost the city up to $8,000 to remedy, the public works department says.

The story generated a firestorm of comments, ranging from: “More tax dollars wasted! Research people! Research!!!!” to: “Stupid! I liked the signs. Apparently people don’t want to have to read? The blue was different and nice looking.”*

Here at the Kitsap Sun, we received a lot of feedback with a simple question: if the Poulsbo man who generated the lawsuit had demanded the city use federally allowed white signs with red lettering, what’s the city doing erecting all that green lettering?

For that answer, we turn to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Devices (MUTCD), devised by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The manual, adopted by Washington state, is what the Kitsap judge relied on in making his decision Bremerton’s signs are unlawful.

The manual states that for areas where parking is prohibited, red letters will be used. For areas where parking is limited to a certain number of hours, the signs are green. Here’s a diagram to help:

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sign, sign, everywhere a sign.

So, now that the city is following the MUTCD on parking signs, that’s the end of the case, right? Not quite. Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Kevin D. Hull has not ruled on a remedy for what happens now. But since the city has already chosen to replace the signs, the only other big question is whether the thousands of people who got parking tickets since 2012 could recoup their fines. Hull has asked both lawyers for the plaintiff and the city to “provide further briefing.” The next hearing in the case is Dec. 9.

 

*Actual comments from Facebook.

 

 

Beat Blast: Trumpeter turns 95, breakdancing, and a passing orca pod

For this week’s Bremerton Beat Blast, consider me your social calendar. Culturally, this city’s got a lot going on this week, and I wanted to share with you four ways you can join in the fun.*

So, enjoy the episode, and here’s my inside tip sheet on what must not be missed:

Yvonne’s 95th: Yvonne McAllister turns 95 today. As she always does, she’ll grab the trumpet she bought in 1958, and she’ll play McCloud’s in East Bremerton, on the corner of Perry Avenue and Sheridan Road.

Happy 95th, Yvonne.
Happy 95th, Yvonne.

Paint Your Heart Out: Artist Angela Perryman brings the paints, the location supplies the pints, and you get to take home the canvas. First up: 6 p.m. at LoveCraft Brewery on Fifth Street; next is 6 p.m. at Hot Java Cafe on Pacific Avenue; and next week, at 1 p.m. Nov. 26 at Hot Java for the little ones. Adults: $45, kids, $25. To reserve your spot, email clayworks_ceramics@yahoo.com or call LoveCraft or Hot Java.

Tradition 5: Looking to see some amazing all-style dancing? On Saturday, breakdancers and hip hop artists will come to Bremerton for Tradition 5, an annual celebration and competition. At noon, the preliminary rounds will be held at The Eagles on Sixth Street. At 6 p.m. the final rounds will be at the Fountain Room inside the Puget Sound Naval Museum on First Street. Tickets are $10 and kids get in free.

Bremerton Jazz Festival: All day Saturday, choirs and jazz bands from around the northwest will be performing at the Bremerton High School Auditorium. (The host 13th Street Jazz Band performs at 9 a.m.) For the main event at 6:30 p.m., Dave Tull — a drummer, vocalist and songwriter who’s even been featured on the TV show Family Guy — and Rebecca Kilgore, a song stylist featured on NPR and at Carnegie Hall, will perform. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door.

Kitsap Quiz Night: I host my monthly news quiz at the Manette Saloon on E. 11th at 7 p.m. Thursday. Join us; there will be free pie.

Story Walk: And last but not least, the Bremerton Police Department will throw open its doors for our latest Kitsap Sun Story Walk, at 1 p.m. Saturday at 1025 Burwell Street. Tours will be provided and the event is free. Be sure to RSVP.

Questions? Comments? Send them to me at josh.farley@kitsapsun.com.

*The fifth story on the Beat Blast is unabashedly about whales.

Happy birthday, new Manette Bridge

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The concrete span that connects Manette to West Bremerton turns five years old today. The $60.6 million span, completed after years of planning and construction, opened to much fanfare on Nov. 10, 2011.

I’ll often ask Bremertonians which bridge they prefer — that classic green steel truss or the far more functional new span? Closer to the new bridge’s opening, the vote was mixed. However, has time has wore on, the city’s residents increasingly prefer the new bridge. Particularly popular its wide pedestrian walkway. Walkers are crossing it constantly, taking in views of Bremerton and the Port Washington Narrows — especially on a sunny day.

Happy birthday, new Manette Bridge. You’ve got a long way to go to get to 81 years old, the age of the old one, but you’re on your way. Here’s some photos of the bridge over its first half decade.

Opening day. The outer railing on the bridge had not been completed.
Opening day. The outer railing on the bridge had not been completed.
The old bridge's truss comes down. The company that did the work recycled the old span. Yet some of its steel is still a fence in Manette.
The old bridge’s truss comes down. The company that did the work recycled the old span. Yet some of its steel is still a fence in Manette.
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Bridge in fog.
The bridge's foundations.
From construction: The bridge’s foundations.
That's how far into the Narrows its foundations of steel and rebar go.
That’s how far into the Narrows its foundations of steel and rebar go. The massive tower on the left is completely underwater, where it will be for the test of time.

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One more photo of the old bridge. If you have photos you'd like to add, send them to josh.farley@kitsapsun.com.
One more photo of the old bridge. If you have photos you’d like to add, send them to josh.farley@kitsapsun.com.

Apartments in the works in Bremerton

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Spyglass Hill will open in early 2017.

Be it the possibility of property tax breaks or a chance to deliver on Bremerton’s thirst for housing, developers have pushed more than a handful of apartment projects through city hall in recent years. Some are more likely than others to materialize.

Here’s a list of those projects, what we know about them, and where they currently sit in the realm of possibilities.

Water, Wind & Sky
Water, Wind & Sky rendering

Water, Wind & Sky: This one’s new. City community development officials have received plans for a 110-unit complex off Lower Wheaton Way at Schley Boulevard, overlooking the Port Washington Narrows. Seattle Developer Mark Goldberg, who spearheaded the 400 Condos in downtown Bremerton, has been working on the project. There’s a city sign up about the project but it is merely at the start of the permitting process.

Spyglass Hill: Work is wrapping up  on the $15 million, 80-unit project on Highland Avenue (see photo at the top of the blog). It looks like the project, developed by Sound West Group, will open in late winter. Pre-renting has begun.

Fourth Street North.
Fourth Street North.

Fourth Street North: And speaking of Sound West Group — the Bremerton-based development company is also at work on Fourth Street, having purchased the Roxy Theater and two properties east of it (as well as others downtown). They received about $240,000 of federal grant funding from the City Council to install new facades on the dated buildings there. That work could begin soon. Once done, the developer plans 35 or so apartments to go with existing parking and two commercial spaces. (This is also the area where Quincy Square is proposed.)

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Wheaton Way apartments underway.

The Wheaton Way Apartments: Work has already begun on the 160-unit complex off Broad Street in East Bremerton. The seven-acre property will be home to 10, three-story apartment buildings. In the future, Kitsap Transit plans to build its new transfer station between the development and Wheaton Way.

The 1010 apartments at Burwell Street and Warren Avenue.
The 1010 apartments at Burwell Street and Warren Avenue.

1010 Apartments: The Bremerton City Council recently decided to give Lorax Partners, the developers of the 25-unit complex, $210,000 to demolish the dilapidated row housing currently on the property. The federal money to do it won’t come until next year. But the project could get underway once that work is complete. Lorax is the same developer that built the Park Avenue Plaza and 71-unit 606 apartments.

Inhabit Bremerton.
Inhabit Bremerton.

Inhabit Bremerton: The 51-unit project by longtime Kitsap County resident and developer Dale Sperling is being built in blocks in China and will then be constructed at the site of the former Nite Shift Tavern and Evergreen Upholstery. I don’t have word yet for when the “modules,” as they are called, will arrive. But when they make it here, I am told putting them together on site will be quick.

Evergreen-Pointe.
Evergreen-Pointe.

Evergreen Pointe: The 104-unit complex would be built beside Evergreen-Rotary Park on Sheldon Boulevard. Goldberg pushed it through city permitting. I’ve talked to Kingston developer Trish Williams, who owns it now, and she’s hopeful to start construction soon but says there’s still some work to be done.

The 707.
The 707.

Smaller projects downtown: Last, but not least, there are some smaller commercial-retail projects going downtown. Chung’s Teriyaki, under construction near the Bremerton ferry terminal, will have three apartments atop it. And Sound West Group is doing one other project on Pacific: the 707, which is a renovated retail space and five apartments above. That project has cleared the city’s design review board.

The Towers.
The Towers.

The Towers: Last but not least, I will mention the Towers, which started as a condo development on Washington Avenue at Sixth Street. Goldberg also steered this one through permitting. It’s now owned by Absher Construction. I had been told of a plan to alter the development to include apartments, a restaurant and hotel. Absher paid more than $200,000 to bury power lines on the street as part of the Washington Avenue project.

Beat Blast: the youngest voter, an open shelter and a guardrail

The hive inside the Kitsap County elections office is indeed buzzing. More than 100,000 ballots have already been turned in en route to what officials expect to be a record breaking turnout on election night.

b0017207933-838105Learn more on this week’s Bremerton Beat Blast, including:

The man who is one of two people who are voting on their 18th birthday today.

Efforts to open Kitsap County’s only year-round homeless shelter.

The city’s decision to pay more to get a guardrail on Tracyton Boulevard.

And finally, the new tenants inside the old motorcycle shop in Manette.

Don’t forget to watch the Kitsap Sun’s election coverage live tonight on the Sun’s Facebook page, starting at 8:30 p.m. PST.

Questions? Comments? Send me feedback at josh.farley@kitsapsun.com.

Bremerton ‘holds very special place’ in Quincy Jones’ heart

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City leaders got the go-ahead from Quincy Jones to create a public square in his name. Photo by Larry Steagall of Fourth Street, where the square is slated to go.

A critical hurdle city leaders faced in constructing a new public square to music icon Quincy Jones was getting the permission from Jones himself. 

And late this last month, Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent got word he approved.

“As I’m sure you know Bremerton holds a very special place in Mr. Jones’ heart and he is honored that the city has seen fit to recognize him with the dedication of this square,” Jones’ publicist, Arnold Robinson, told Lent in an email.

Lent had hoped Jones, who discovered his love of music while living in Bremerton as a child, could come here next May for some festivities, including the Armed Forces Day parade. He politely declined due to a scheduling conflict. But he offered his blessing, Lent said.

“We can move forward with  Quincy Square on Fourth,” Lent told me Thursday, adding they’ll approach Jones again if and when the project is finished. “Everyone’s excited.”

The concept, seen below, was developed by the “Fourth Street Action Group,” a gathering of community leaders for the past two years at Rice Fergus Miller architects. It’s a complete transformation of Fourth, between Pacific and Washington avenues, that includes piano key-inspired sidewalks. Designer Emily Russell is credited with introducing the idea to honor Jones.

The project is by no means a done deal and will cost about $4.8 million start to finish. I’ll keep you posted as we learn more about it.

Quincy

 

Beat Blast: Federally-funded demolitions, ferry fisticuffs and a 3-story jungle gym

You needn’t be a kid to get a kick out of the new indoor playground at Ahoy Kitsap Playland, owner Rhonda Koh says. The massive jungle gym, which opens Friday, can be enjoyed by parents and their children alike.

You’ll get the full scoop on this week’s Bremerton Beat Blast, as well as:

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What property downtown will soon be demolished with federal funds;

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How urban beekeepers are helping to support the insect’s population;

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Why Bremerton is not actually the most dangerous ferry in the state system despite recent reports;

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The tough choice to be made regarding the Veneta Avenue Sequoia trees.

Questions or comments? Drop a line to josh.farley@kitsapsun.com.