Yom HaShoah: Oral Histories Help Us “Never Forget”

Today is Yom HaShoah, and while the atrocities committed by the Nazis and their collaborators may seem very distant from today’s American South, many Jewish people in the region have direct connections to the Holocaust.

In the oral history collection, we have interviews with survivors like Mira Kimmelman, who speaks here about settling in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, years after the war:

We also have the story of Meyer and Manya Kornblit, who survived the war and built a life in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Video from an interview with their son Michael was featured on this blog in November.

Nathan Swerdlow poses with a picture of himself, October 2010.
Nathan Swerdlow poses with a picture of himself, October 2010.

Our oral history collection also includes an interview with Nathan Swerdlow, of Beaumont, Texas, who was among the first American Soldiers inside Mauthausen concentration camp. Swerdlow, originally from Wisconsin, spoke enough Yiddish to let the prisoners know that the war had ended and that he was an American soldier. For years, he spoke at schools and churches around southeast Texas, educating younger generations about the Holocaust.

These individuals have made a point of sharing their (and their families’) stories, even though it is often a difficult experience. As World War II and the Holocaust recede from living memory, it becomes all the more important to listen to those among us who lived through those events and to find new ways of keeping their memories alive for future generations.

We hope that you have a meaningful day of remembrance, in whatever way you see fit.

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