As the war in Europe wound down in the spring of 1945, Allied soldiers liberated hundreds, even thousands, of concentration camps and sub-camps of the Nazi regime. These Allied soldiers and their governments came to grips with the enormity of the terrible crime that was the Holocaust. Though the suffering and uncertainty continued for the surviving victims, the Liberation of the Nazi camps is surely something to commemorate. Throughout the years, the Museum has hosted countless programs on the Holocaust, and I have selected a few of those that deal mostly with the Liberation experience. I hope you enjoy these presentations and remember the suffering of those caught in this wicked snare.
“One Voice, Two Lives: From Auschwitz Prisoner to 101st Airborne” with Cantor David Wisnia Interviewed By Wladyslaw T. Bartoszewski, PhD
To start this selection, I wanted to make sure that viewers not lose sight of the fact that in order for there to be liberators, there must be those in need of liberation. David Wisnia grew up in Poland and witnessed his country and city as they were quickly conquered and occupied by Nazi forces. His parents and brother were executed, and he was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. David’s harrowing story takes him from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Dachau, where he was able to escape and join up with members of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st “Screaming Eagles” Airborne Division, where he served with them as their interpreter.
Though the liberators are rightfully seen as heroes and saviors, those who endured these hellish experiences and persevered through the most trying of times, also liberated themselves. Just making it through their captivity and surviving the Holocaust made them their own liberators. This session came from our 2015 pre-International Conference symposium on the Holocaust.
The program begins at the 04:10 mark and lasts roughly 55 minutes.
“The Righteous: Those Who Helped Shelter, Protect and Liberate” Featuring Alex Kershaw and WWII Veteran T. Moffat Burriss
This session also comes from our 2015 pre-conference symposium, and begins with bestselling author and historian Alex Kershaw telling the remarkable story of Raoul Wallenberg, one of Yad Vashem’s “Righteous Among the Nations,” who as a Swedish diplomat did everything within his power to save as many Hungarian Jews as possible.
Kershaw is then followed by WWII veteran T. Moffatt Burriss, who served with the 82nd Airborne Division. Burriss tells his story from basic training all the way to Berlin, which included his unit’s participation in the liberation of the Wöbbelin concentration camp.
The program begins at the 05:45 mark and lasts roughly 90 minutes.
“Why We Fight” with Author and Historian Alex Kershaw and Screenwriter John Orloff
One of the highlights of the 2015 International Conference was the session featuring Alex Kershaw, discussing his wonderful book The Liberator about Felix Sparks, who was the commander of the 3rd Battalion of the 157th Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division. Sparks and his men were some of the first to liberate the Dachau Concentration Camp.
Next on the panel was John Orloff, who wrote both Episode 2, “Day of Days,” and Episode 9, “Why We Fight,” of the Band of Brothers miniseries. Orloff discussed what went into writing Episode 9, where the men of Easy Company come upon the Dachau sub-camp near Landsberg. This is a great panel on the history and heroism of the men on the ground in the European theater and how Hollywood takes historical events and portrays them on screen. It was moderated by bestselling author Donald L. Miller, PhD, one of the Museum’s longest serving advisors and friends.
The program begins at the 17:30 mark and lasts roughly 75 minutes.
“Eisenhower: The Liberator” the Gen. Raymond E. Mason Jr. Distinguished Lecture Featuring Ike’s Granddaughters Susan and Mary Eisenhower, Moderated by Keith Huxen, PhD
Finishing the list of programs is a conversation about the man who led the liberating forces of the western allies, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Mary and Susan Eisenhower shared intimate stories about growing up with the General-turned-President, bringing their very unique perspectives, and also their own scholarship from years of studying family history as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s granddaughters. The two ladies shared many stories of “growing up with Ike” and also talked about how their grandfather influenced their lives and careers.
The program begins at the 11:40 mark and lasts roughly 85 minutes.
If you are interested in learning more about these subjects, and reading from the speakers, you can find many titles at the links below. Remember, you purchases help support the Museum’s educational mission.
Explore titles by Alex Kershaw, Donald L. Miller and John Orloff
This article is part of an ongoing series commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II made possible by Bank of America.
Jeremy Collins joined The National WWII Museum in 2001 as an intern, and now oversees the institution’s public programming initiatives.