Monday, November 19, 2012

Holocaust Stories Told from Two Perspectives

 This morning, the Farmington Libraries hosted Henny Markiewicz Simon and Ben Cooper to share their firsthand accounts of their respective experiences with the Nazi Concentration Camps from World War II.  To say they were survivors of their circumstances would not begin to describe their acts of bravery, heroism, and perseverance to overcome the horrors they experienced and witnessed over their prolonged roles in the war. It was an extraordinary opportunity to hear this living history from Henny, a Holocaust survivor, and Ben, a combat medic who took part in the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp as assigned with the 45th Infantry Division. Their stories were emotional, humbling, and inspirational and, as intended with this annual Krystallnacht program, commemorated the human spirit's ability to overcome persecution. 

Here are a few photos from the event:
A full house attends in rapt silence as Henny Markiewicz Simon retells her story -- from the day the Nazis came and took her and her mother away to their first ghetto, to her brush with Eduard Roschmann, known as the "Butcher of Riga," to the day when the Russians came and liberated the camp where she had been confined.

Ben Cooper displayed a number of artifacts collected during his tours in Italy, France, and Germany. This memorabilia included some of his standard issue gear: a canteen, meal set, rucksack, helmet (and lining), a German helmet, his own medical bag and a leather medical bag he took off a German medic-turned-prisoner.  Above, Ben wears the medic helmet issued to him. The cross on the front had to be painted off-center: the Germans used the cross as a target. Moving the target off-center was to help decrease the possibility of fatal wounds in the event of a direct hit. His most prized memento: The yellow Jewish star given to him by a Frenchman after the war was over.
State Representative Brian Becker helps Ben unfurl a Nazi flag, which Ben removed from the Nazi Party Headquarters in Munich.  He later learned that Adolph Hitler had kept an apartment in this building.

Attendees surround Ben Cooper at the end of his talk.  The picture imposed on the screen in the background is of a young Private Cooper, packed and ready to go home after four years of fighting a long, ugly, evil war across Europe.