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Archive for the ‘Museum News’ Category

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WWII Veteran Celebrates 90th Birthday at Museum

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Craycraft on his 90th birthday walking among the warbirds hanging in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center.

Everett D. Craycraft on his 90th birthday walking among the warbirds hanging in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Smith Wilcox.

Every day The National WWII Museum honors the achievements and courage of the Greatest Generation for future generations. On March 9, 2014, we were especially thrilled to have WWII veteran, Everett D. Craycraft, and his family celebrating his 90th birthday with us at the Museum over 70 years after he began fighting in the war that changed the world.

Born in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky in 1924, Craycraft grew up the oldest of seven boys during the Great Depression. In September 1942 when he was 18 years old, he answered his patriotic call and enlisted in the US Navy in order to play his part in protecting our nation’s liberty.

After boot camp training in the Great Lakes and placement in Washington at Sand Point Naval Air Station and in Bremerton, Craycraft entered the most frightful part of service—the combat zone. He served for 15 months in the South Pacific on the USS Natoma Bay CVE 62, a small aircraft carrier which was awarded six bronze battle stars and 2 unit citation badges. He was then assigned to Service Division 101 operating an LCM, a 50 ft boat made by Higgins Industries in New Orleans. They served Admiral Halsey’s carrier fleet at Leyte Gulf. Towards the close of the war, he returned stateside and served as a Ship’s Rigger at the San Diego Naval Base.

His service to our country did not end with our nation’s victory though. Craycraft continued to serve in the Naval Reserve until 1952 and went back to school to learn Topographic Drafting on the GI Bill while he started his family. Following school, he began working for a large oil company moving to six different states where he last worked in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Today, Craycraft is retired and living in Slidell, Louisiana. Still active in learning about and honoring the members of his generation, he enjoys visiting the Museum to be reminded of his generation’s heroic accomplishments. He favors the majestic views of the warbirds in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center and the familiar models of the types of vessels in which he served that are on display throughout the Museum. We are happy to be a place for Craycraft and other WWII veterans to be honored and to reminisce about their great accomplishments. Thank you for your service, Everett D. Craycraft, and best wishes to you in your years to come!

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The National WWII Museum Commemorates D-Day 70

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As the world comes together to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, The National WWII Museum, which originally opened as The National D-Day Museum in 2000, will honor, educate and reflect both in New Orleans and abroad.
 

Friday, June 6, 2014, New Orleans

Andrew Higgins Drive between Camp and Magazine Streets will be closed to all traffic on June 6, 2014 from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Please adjust your route accordingly.

All activities are included with admission unless indicated otherwise.  All events are subject to change.

6:00 am – 7:00 am
H-Hour Ceremony
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
Join us for an emotional commemoration of the Allied landings at Normandy at the exact time of the invasion including a presentation of  D-Day veteran oral histories from the Museum’s collection. This event is free and open to the public.

8:00 am and 9:00 am
Early Showings – Beyond All Boundaries
The Solomon Victory Theater
This exclusive 4D film, produced and narrated by Tom Hanks, features dazzling effects, CGI animation, multi-layered environments and first-person accounts from the trenches to the Home Front read by Brad Pitt, Tobey Maguire, Gary Sinise, Patricia Clarkson, Wendell Pierce and more.
Purchase Tickets

9:00 am – 5:00 pm

D-Day Briefings
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
Museum historians and curators will report on the action at Normandy throughout the day, allowing visitors to follow the progress of the Allies.                          

Living History Corps
Battle Barksdale Parade Ground
Museum artifacts will be on display as WWII reenactors wearing the uniforms and carrying the equipment of both the Allied and Axis forces share their knowledge about the day-to-day lives of military men and women and the broader lessons of World War II.  

Higgins Boat Tours
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
An extremely rare opportunity, visitors will be allowed to board the Museum LCVP or “Higgins Boat” as a curator explains the craft’s role in the D-Day invasion.

Rockwall Adventure
Battle Barksdale Parade Ground
Kids can enjoy a rockwall adventure while Museum staff share the story of the legendary Pointe du Hoc Rangers at D-Day.

“What does D-Day Mean to You?”
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
Share your thoughts on the lessons and legacy of D-Day. Select comments will be shared on the Museum’s Blog.

D-Day Newsreels
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
Experience the news of D-Day as those on the Home Front did through newsreels and film footage of the day.

9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Oral History Showcase: Stories of D-Day Veterans
H. Mortimer Favrot Orientation Center
Hear first-person accounts of the day with video oral histories of D-Day veterans from the Museum’s collection.

9:45 am – 10:15 am
Military Band Performance
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center

10:30 am – 11:30 am
D-Day Ceremony
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
This commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day will include representatives from the Museum, Allied countries, veterans and a local student who will honor the memory of a New Orleans soldier who lost his life on D-Day. The Victory Belles will also perform the National Anthem.

11:30 am – 12:00 pm
Museum Birthday Celebration
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
We take a moment to celebrate the 14th anniversary of the Museum’s grand opening on June 6, 2000, with an annual tradition of birthday cupcakes.

1:30 pm – 2:30 pm
D-Day Veterans Panel Discussion
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
A panel of D-Day veterans will share their first-hand experiences.

2:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Performance – The Victory Belles
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
The Museum’s Victory Belles will perform patriotic favorites for visitors.

3:30 pm – 5:00 pm
Lecture and Book Signing – Dr. John C. McManus, The Dead and Those About to Die
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
Acclaimed historian, Dr. John C. McManus shares the harrowing story of the famed Big Red One and their role in the assault on Omaha Beach in his newly released book.

5:00 pm
Final Showing of Beyond All Boundaries
The 4D film will resume at 10:00 am on June 7, showing hourly, with the final seating at 5:00 pm.
Purchase Tickets

6:00 pm
Museum Exhibits Close to the Public
Exhibits will reopen at 9:00 am on June 7, closing at 5:00 pm.

6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
The Andrews Brothers
Stage Door Canteen
Mistaken identities, madcap comedy, romance and musical treasures fill this sweet and hilarious show. It’s 1943 in the South Pacific and, tonight, The Andrews Sisters headline the big USO show. But when a flu outbreak quarantines the girls, stagehands Max, Lawrence and Patrick, along with pin-up girl Peggy Jones, hatch a plan to save the day! Add spectacular dining by Chef John Besh and the American Sector restaurant for the ultimate experience!
Purchase Tickets

7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Outdoor Film Screening – Band of Brothers, Episodes 1 & 2
Battle Barksdale Parade Ground
This free film screening includes the first two episodes of the award-winning HBO miniseries Band of Brothers shown outdoors in the shadow of the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. Doors open at 6:00 pm with a military band performance at 6:30 pm and showtime at 7:00 pm. The American Sector will be on hand with food and beverage available for purchase. No outside refreshments will be allowed. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs and blankets. Seating is first-come-first-serve. This event is free and open to the public.
RSVP
 

Saturday, June 7, 2014, New Orleans

 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Living History Corps
Battle Barksdale Parade Ground
Museum artifacts will be on display as WWII reenactors wearing the uniforms and carrying the equipment of both the Allied and Axis forces share their knowledge about the day-to-day lives of military men and women and the broader lessons of World War II.  

Higgins Boat Tours
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
An extremely rare opportunity, visitors will be allowed to board the Museum LCVP or “Higgins Boat” as a curator explains the craft’s role in the D-Day invasion.

Rockwall Adventure
Battle Barksdale Parade Ground
Kids can enjoy a rockwall adventure while Museum staff share the story of the legendary Pointe du Hoc Rangers at D-Day.

“What does D-Day Mean to You?”
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
Share your thoughts on the lessons and legacy of D-Day. Select comments will be shared on the Museum’s Blog.

D-Day Newsreels
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
Experience the news of D-Day as those on the Home Front did through newsreels and film footage of the day.

Oral History Showcase: Stories of D-Day Veterans
H. Mortimer Favrot Orientation Center
Hear first-person accounts of the day with video oral histories of D-Day veterans from the Museum’s collection.

9:30 am – 10:15 am
Military Band Performance
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center

10:00 am – 11:00 am
Meet the Author – Dr. John C. McManus
Acclaimed historian Dr. John C. McManus will discuss the actions that occurred at Normandy following D-Day.

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
D-Day Memory Panel with Dr. Gunter Bischof, Dr. John McManus and Dr. Keith Huxen
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
This panel discussion of premier historians explores the memory of D-Day from the French, American and German perspectives.

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
70th Anniversary of D-Day Documentary
H. Mortimer Favrot Orientation Center
This D-Day documentary, produced by the US Navy, includes oral histories from the Museum’s collection.

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Letters and Diaries
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
Local students pay tribute to the Allied troops of D-Day and offer translations from local French citizens who witnessed history.
 

At Normandy 

Guests on the Museum’s sold-out 70th Anniversary of D-Day Cruise will attend the official commemoration of the anniversary of D-Day at the American Cemetery. Along with witnessing the ceremony, the group will pay private respects and walk the hallowed grounds where 9,387 Americans are buried.

Special guests on the tour include WWII veterans, Tom Brokaw, Rick Atkinson, Rob Citino, Donald L. Miller and more.

Find out more about unique travel opportunities with America’s WWII Museum at ww2museumtours.org.

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Salzwedel Concentration Camp: A Liberator and Survivors Speak

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Every person who lived during WWII has a story to tell, and The National WWII Museum is here to help tell the stories of those who were alive during the war that changed the world. Today, we are telling the story of a Jewish WWII combat medic, Norman Werbowsky, who shared his wartime experience for the first time at 90 years old with a Tribute Page, an offering by the Museum so that all who endured WWII have a platform in which they may be honored and document their experience.

Four years ago, Norman with the assistance of his daughter Joelyn Flomenhaft and writer Adam Kent-Isaac, created Norman’s Tribute Page on the Museum’s website. After the creation of his Tribute Page, one of the Museum’s historians made a visit to Norman’s New York home to record his oral history. Since opening up about his war experience for The National WWII Museum, Norman was instilled with a sense of honor and pride that inspired him with the desire to find more ways in which he could share and connect with others about his experience during WWII. He then became actively involved with the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s Speaker Bureau where he gave speeches for events twice, but each time he was reintroduced to a connection from his past. Read on to learn about the amazing tale of a hero reconnected in the last years of his life with the Holocaust victims he helped save during the war.

This story is dedicated to the memory of Norman Werbowsky and all the liberators of Salzwedel Concentration Camp. These liberators witnessed atrocities and evil acts unconscionable to the human race. Norman Werbowsky passed away in August 2013 at the age 93.

Survivors of Salzwedel concentration camp in Germany, Eva Braun (left) and Elly Gross (right), reunited with one of their liberators Norman Werbowsky, a combat medic in the 84th infantry, 309th battalion, in Queens, New York on August 26, 2012. They all had lived within three miles of each other in Queens never having met until coincidences brought them all together earlier  that year in 2012.

Survivors of Salzwedel concentration camp in Germany, Eva Braun (left) and Elly Gross (right), reunited with one of their liberators, Norman Werbowsky, a combat medic in the 84th infantry, 309th battalion, in Long Beach, New York on August 26, 2012. They all had lived within three miles of each other in Queens never having met until coincidences brought them all together earlier that year in 2012. Photo taken by Adam Kent-Isaac.

Preface
by Joelyn Flomenhaft

During April,1945, Norman Werbowsky, a young combat medic in the 84th infantry, 309th battalion, liberated Salzwedel concentration camp.  Salzwedel is located between Hamburg and Magdeburg, Germany. While this is now history, it wasn’t until two years ago, when he was ninety years old, that he was finally able to speak about the horrors that he had seen.  Since then, he has been invited by the Museum of Jewish Heritage to serve on their Speakers Bureau and to share his stories.  Sixty-seven years later, fate would have him connect with the two survivors that he helped liberate.

Norman Werbowsky was a Jewish combat medic serving in the 84th infantry, 309th battalion that liberated Salzwedel concentration camp in Germany, 1945. Image provided by Joelyn Flomenhaft,.

Norman Werbowsky was a Jewish combat medic serving in the 84th infantry that liberated Salzwedel concentration camp in Germany, 1945. Image courtesy of Joelyn Flomenhaft.

The first coincidence happened in May, 2012.  He attended a Speakers Bureau training session and introduced himself to other members who were eager to learn about him.  Elly Gross, a survivor and also a member, was one of the people listening.  As Norman spoke about how he liberated Salzwedel concentration camp, she immediately raised her hand and went to the podium to kiss him.

The coincidence does not end here.  Two months later, Norman was invited to serve as a panelist to discuss liberation at a conference sponsored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage.  He spoke to teachers who wanted to learn new perspectives on the Holocaust.  Eva Lux Braun, was one of the educators in the audience.  Another chance meeting was now in the works.  Eva, a survivor of Salzwedel concentration camp, would soon learn that Norman was one of her liberators.

As it turns out, Norman, Elly, and Eva all live within three miles to each other in Queens, NY.   While all three have stories of miracles that led to their survival, the chances of them meeting was also a miracle.  Now, they are forever bonded through shared experiences of survivors and a liberator.  The three of them would finally meet at Norman’s residence in Long Beach, NY on August 26, 2012.

 
Liberation Is Near

In the spring of 1945, American troops rolled through Germany, stamping out the Nazi regime in the last days of the European campaign. Among them was Norman, who saw hellish combat from Normandy through Belgium to the Battle of the Bulge and across Germany to Hanover.

Meanwhile, in the small town of Salzwedel, Elly and Eva, inmates at Salzwedel concentration camp, waited out their days, clinging to the hope that liberation would come. They, and the several thousand other women there, had suffered for years under the Nazis, beginning with their deportation from various Axis-occupied countries and their slave labor at camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Force-marched to Salzwedel as the Russian army grew closer, they were lucky to be alive – but their hardship was far from over.

In April of 1945, the lives of the American troops and the Salzwedel inmates would intersect. Eva and Elly did not know each other during their time as inmates, nor did Norman meet either of them there. But the three would be forever joined by their shared experience of the Nazi nightmare’s closing chapter. Sixty-seven years later, they would meet in Long Beach, New York, to tell their stories to the world.

The camp at Salzwedel was the endpoint of years of persecution – the inmates arrived there after a series of cumulative restrictions in their home countries, instituted by the occupying Nazi regime, that gradually stripped away their rights.

Elly Gross in 1931. Image courtesy of the photo archive of Yad Vashem.

Elly Gross in 1931. Image courtesy of the photo archive of Yad Vashem.

Elly describes the process. Born on Feb. 14, 1929, in Romania-Transylvania, Elly recalls the invasion of that territory by the German troops in September of 1940, and the subsequent changes. “As soon as they marched in, almost every week they issued a new law against the small Jewish population,” says Elly. “Doctors were not allowed to practice; Jewish children were not allowed to attend school with gentiles; if a Hungarian wanted any property belonging to Jews, the Jew would have to move out; curfew was issued.”

These oppressive laws ultimately meant only one thing: a total loss, for the Jewish population, of any semblance of legal standing. And it soon worsened. “In 1942 every man between 18 to 55 was drafted into forced labor,” says Elly. “They said only for a few weeks, to collect the crops, but they were taken to the Russian tundra in Ukraine and Poland, starved, beaten. Some of them froze to death.”

In the winter of 1944, the remaining Jews were forcibly rounded up into a ghetto, says Elly, to await transportation to Auschwitz. “On May 27, the first transports were selected to go to the camps, strip-searched, and herded into cattle cars,” she says. “We arrived to Auschwitz-Birkenau on June 2nd, 1944, after seven days with no food and water…we arrived into hell.”

Eva tells a similar story. “I was born on August 5, 1927, in Kosice, Czechoslovakia,” she says. “In 1938, due to the Munich Agreement between Chamberlain and Hitler – the part of Slovakia that I come from was given to Hungary, and I was deported from Hungary in May of 1944.”

IEva Lux at 12 yrs (1939) (2)

Eva Lux Braun in 1939 when she was 12 years old. Image courtesy of Eva Lux Braun.

First the Jews had to spend four or five weeks in the ghettoes. “Then they ordered us to assemble, and took us to Auschwitz,” she says. Once there, she and her sister Vera were separated from her mother, father, and young sister Suzy. “When I saw the smoke and the fire and asked the person that was guarding us, the Kapo, what [was] happening there, he said, ‘your family’s going up in smoke.’

“I asked him, why couldn’t he lie? I’m sixteen and a half years old, and I don’t know anything. And he said, ‘let me give you a word of advice: forget everything that happened before. Concentrate on living.’  That was the best advice that I got.  I had to fend for myself,” says Eva, who was thereafter determined to survive with her sister Vera.

The two women did not ever meet each other during their time in Auschwitz; as Elly recalls, “There were thirty thousand inmates. At roll call, nobody was allowed to talk. Anyone caught whispering was beaten. We couldn’t make friends; we couldn’t write; we had nothing to write with.”

“I was in Auschwitz until December 26,” says Eva. “I had been doing slave labor, working in a quarry carrying heavy stones. I was sixteen and a half, and I had to carry…for no reason whatsoever.” She repeats: “For no reason whatsoever – we were carrying stones from here to there, back and forth. If we didn’t do it, we were beaten.”

In December, “we heard that the Russian Army was nearing. The Nazis knew that they were losing the war, and the camps were in disarray.” The prisoners were led on an excruciating “death march” through the snow, made all the worse by their lack of proper clothing and food. “We heard bombing, and we prayed, ‘please kill us.”  The final destination: Salzwedel, a labor camp for female prisoners.

 

From Auschwitz to Salzwedel

The concentration camp at Salzwedel was part of the Neuengamme system of labor camps, a vast network comprising more than eighty different sub-camps. Inmates came from all over Europe, and included Jews and non-Jews alike. Unlike Auschwitz, the goal was not outright extermination but rather exhaustive manual labor; however, deaths from overwork and malnourishment were common nevertheless.

Norman knew something was wrong right away when the division reached Salzwedel. “[There was] this horrific smell – unbelievable – but where it was coming from, we didn’t know,” says Norman. Soldiers were able to trace the smell to the concentration camp, where they were shocked to find thousands of female prisoners living in filth, and thousands more dead.

“I’d heard about [atrocities in the camps], but never really believed it”, says Norman. “But when I went into that camp and saw the dead bodies piled up in the ditches, and [saw that] these people mostly emaciated women, were so haggard and drawn-out, I realized what it was all about. One of the inmates kissed my hand, and I felt like crying, I was so touched. This poor woman was so happy to see an American soldier…and I was happy that I was a soldier and that I was doing my part to help liberate these people. It was the highlight of my career, to bring these people a little happiness.”

Elly recalls meeting the soldiers. “It was the first time in my life I’d seen African-Americans. Their white teeth were striking. They told us we were free. I didn’t understand what that word meant – I didn’t speak English.”

Women from Salzwedel eating full meals for the first time in years. Image from Theadore Draper's book "The 84th Infantry Division in The Battle of Germany."

Women from Salzwedel eating full meals for the first time in years. Image from Theadore Draper’s book “The 84th Infantry Division in The Battle of Germany.”

The American liberators did the best they could to care for the inmates who functioned as slaves.  It was difficult because their physical condition was extremely poor. “We wanted to feed them,” says Norman. “But they couldn’t take any solid food. We had to give them liquids – they were very thankful for that. There’s very little you could do for these people. They were so weak, so undernourished, had all kinds of diseases.”

Some of the inmates at Salzwedel concentration camp had been wearing the same tattered clothes for years. Norman did what he could to help the women acquire proper clothing. “There was a building there with cloth on a wagon, and they asked me to guard it so nobody could take it,” he says. “But the women wanted the cloth, to make garments, and I said, ‘to hell with that, if you want it, I’ll help you take it.’ So I helped them take the cloth. They were so thankful – they made new clothes for themselves, for the first time in years.”

Did the German citizens of Salzwedel know what was going on in the camp? Norman believes they did. “When we got to the camp, we wanted to have all the dead people buried, at least, so we went and got the people in the town to come out to the camp to bury these people,” he says. “They claimed they didn’t know anything about it. I couldn’t believe it – the smell was there, and the facts were very obvious.” In any event, they could have no doubt about it anymore. “They had to clean up the whole camp and the whole area,” says Eva. “That was their minimal punishment.”

Norman’s experience at Salzwedel left him with a firm belief in the importance for the world of knowing the truth about what happened there – a truth that is increasingly being distorted by misinformation about, and outright denial of, the Holocaust. “I’m telling you first-hand that it happened. People say the Holocaust never happened – they do not know. It happened…and I saw it and am here to tell about it.”

The emotion in his voice is real.

 

After the Liberation

The joy of freedom from the camp was dampened by the sadness that there was little left, in many cases, for the survivors to come home to.

“I returned to the city where I was deported from on August 11, 1945,” says Elly, “and I was sure I was going home to my parents and my brother and I could go back to school. But strangers lived in the house, and I was chased away.”

There were also the inevitable family members who were lost. Eva says, “I had hoped that my father survived – my father was young, good-looking, strong. But we never heard anything [about him]. When I came back with my sister it was a very arduous journey – we were three months within Salzwedel’s vicinity because there was a very very heavy quota…for coming back to Slovakia. We were on the bottom [of this quota] and we had to wait. I was hoping I would see my father…but..no. My father never came back.”

The liberation papers of Elly Gross provided by Elly Gross.

The liberation papers of Elly Gross. Provided by Elly Gross.

Eva also describes a miraculous reunion. In the Budapest train station, says Eva, “my sister who I was holding onto got torn away from me. I was yelling, Vera, Vera, and this young girl, blond, blue-eyed, who I had never seen before, came to me and said, ‘are you the Lux girl?’ and I said, ‘yes, who are you?’ She said, your uncle married my sister, and he sends me out every single day to the station [in the hope that] maybe you will find us.” And he found us that way…it was unbelievable.”

They stayed with her uncle in Budapest for a few days before returning to Kosice. Several years later, they would emigrate to America. Elly would remain in Europe longer, not leaving her native Romania until 1966, when she and her husband and children came to the US.

 

Union in Long Beach

On August 26, 2012, Elly, Eva, and Norman would meet for the first time at Norman’s home in Long Beach, New York. The meeting was organized by Norman’s daughter, Joelyn Flomenhaft, who has long been active with the National World War II Museum. “It was absolutely thrilling for me to witness the connection firsthand,” says Joelyn. “Their paths were so similar.  They were such young girls when this happened.”

Though they had never previously met, they seemed to have known each other for ages. All three recounted their memories lucidly, their voices heavy with the memories of their harrowing experience. After an interview and discussion before an assembled audience (which provided the basis for this article), they fielded a number of questions from the crowd.

One member of the audience wanted to know if they held a grudge against Germany. Elly, for her part, does not. “The Germans of today, we cannot blame for their grandfathers’ sins”, says Elly. “Their grandfathers were raised that way, from Kindergarten on, that the Jews are some kind of animal and that they have to kill them and hate them. The children today try to make up for their grandfathers’ sins, and the best place, the most peaceful place, for Jews to live in Europe today is Germany.”

Eva agrees. “I was a guide at Yad Vashem, a Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, and some people would object that I would guide German [visitors] and speak German…but these people, the young people, they wanted to know what their parents did.” On the other hand, she does hold World War II-era Europe responsible. “Everybody jumped on the bandwagon because the Jews were not liked.”

About the contemporary movements of Holocaust denial, Eva has this to say: “When General Eisenhower liberated the camps, with General Patton, he had the foresight to say, ‘we [must] document, film, write down what we see, because there will be a time when people will say it never happened.’ We have great thanks to General Eisenhower because he documented it. Nobody can deny it.”

Eva said,  “I was a volunteer at Yad Vashem. We have proofs, because the Nazis were very proud of what they were doing. There are documents from them – exact numbers – pictures, everything is there in Schwarze auf Weiss, in black and white. It’s not a story, it’s history.”

 

Written by Adam D. Kent-Isaac, Bloomington, Indiana.

 

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Understanding D-Day: Travel to Normandy

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The Invasion of Normandy from the National Archives.

The best way to learn about historical events is to actually visit the sites where those events took place.

As the Director of the Museum’s Travel Programs, I can speak with some authority on this.  My years here at The National WWII Museum have taken me from London, to the beaches of Normandy, through Belgium and Luxembourg, into Germany and Austria, along the French Riviera and the “boot” of Italy, and even through the Philippine Islands.

But my very first visit to Normandy, on our 2005 Victory in Europe Tour, is the one that always stand out the most.

I had studied D-Day for 10 years, watching all of the movies and documentaries; reading the best books on the subject; listening to the stories of the WWII veterans who were actually there, but I learned more in one minute of standing on the bluffs overlooking Omaha Beach than in the previous 10 years combined.

Perspective.  This was a word that kept floating in my head during the tour and after when people asked me what I learned on the trip.  No matter how much you have analyzed and studied photos and maps, only being on the ground can bring these sites to life.  The only word I could come up with was perspective.

I saw D-Day through the perspective of the men storming ashore and the near-impossible task that lay ahead of them.  Most importantly though was the perspective from the German side of the beaches.  Positioned atop the bluff, just outside of the Normandy American Cemetery grounds, one can imagine what it would have been like for the soldier manning the defensive positions awaiting the armada to unload its human cargo.

Easy.  That was another word I kept coming back to.  How “easy” it must have been for the defenders to unleash their own private hell on the GIs who made it off of their Higgins Boat.

Though I have returned to Normandy every year since that tour in 2005, I still am overcome by a wave of pride, sorrow and wonderment at what the American soldiers faced, suffered and achieved on that June day.

And I am still amazed at how much more there is for me to learn about D-Day.

Over the years, the National WWII Museum has brought guests over to Normandy and has developed wonderful connections with locals.  These connections have flourished into friendships with tour guides, various museums, and individual civilians who provide our tours with wonderful assistance and access.

You too may join the National WWII Museum and our friends in Normandy on a journey this fall on our    D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy & Liberation of France Tour that takes history buffs on a one of kind travel experience hitting all the spots the Allies conquered.  Learn more about how you may join the tour here:  http://www.ww2museumtours.org/normandy/

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Blog by Jeremy Collins, Director of Travel & Conference Services at the National WWII Museum.

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WWII Veteran Forrest Villarrubia and his Map of Chats

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for edited cEvery day at the Museum, visitors from all over the world come to learn about the American Experience during WWII in our galleries.  At a table just to the right of the Museum’s main entrance sits our WWII veteran volunteers who share their war stories.  One veteran in particular, Forrest Villarrubia, who just made three years volunteering with the Museum, has been documenting origins of all the visitors in which he has shared his WWII experience.

Fascinated by the countries people were coming from to visit the Museum, Forrest, a Marine from the Pacific Theater, started keeping tally marks on a world map of where his new friends originated. Since he started this project two years ago, he has met people from all over the world, but he enjoys his chats with New Zealanders the most.

Between October and December 1944, Forrest served as a Marine in combat in Leyte, Philippines where his troop received food rations of eggs, butter, milk, and flour from New Zealand—the right combination of ingredients to make pancakes.  He and his comrades had a pancake-eating competition where Forrest lost having eaten 16 pancakes and the winner 24. Having been full on this wartime treat, the loss of the competition is something that Forrest enjoys recalling—and still thanks Museum visitors from New Zealand for the food supply.

Forrest will continue to share his stories and tally the visitors he meets, but this week he will be getting a new map because as you can see, his current one is a little worn out.

Post by Katherine Odell, Social Media Coordinator at The National WWII Museum

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History goes Online with The Digital Collections of The National WWII Museum

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Many interpretative institutions today increasingly make use of narratives, storytelling, and the personal experiences of historical and everyday figures to educate their visitors. At the National WWII Museum, we use first-hand accounts to further our mission to tell the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.  Since it was founded, The National WWII Museum has been dedicated to collecting and sharing the stories of the citizen soldiers and Home Front workers who served and sacrificed for our country during WWII. The digitization project, supported by key funders and Institute of Museum and Library Science (IMLS) have helped the Museum achieve this goal by supporting innovative and unique ideas for access, description and navigation of our video oral history and photograph collections. The site currently offers access to 150 oral histories and over 5,000 photographs. Both types of collections can be searched, viewed, saved in a personal collection or licensed for use on the website.

Digital Collection-crop

 

Check out the Museum’s collections online at http://ww2online.org. We hope you will take the time to view some images and listen to the stories of those we chose to honor in this important project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post by Lindsey Barnes, Senior Archivist/Digital Projects Manager at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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Houston Wrestling War Bond Show

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WWII Wrestling Bond Drive

On this day, 70 years ago, in front of a packed house at Houston’s City Auditorium, a war bond fundraising event was held in support of the 4th War Loan.  However, this event was perhaps unlike other war bond rallies of the day as its headline entertainment featured a mixture of orchestral symphony music and action-packed pro wrestling!

At the top of the five-bout card that evening, legendary mat-technician Lou Thesz fought World Heavyweight Champion ‘Wild’ Bill Longson to a hard-fought time-limit draw.  The Houston Symphony Orchestra played both during intermissions and – according to the program for the event (‘for the first time in the history of wrestling’) – during the last three matches while the action was underway.  It was reported as well that Houston Symphony Orchestra conductor Ernst Hoffmann had to personally deal with one disgruntled pro wrestler who blamed his loss on the distracting music.

This unusual mix of highbrow and lowbrow entertainment was a huge success, raising over $7 million dollars in war bond sales.

Houston War

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post by Collin Makamson, Family Programs & Outreach Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum

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Happy Birthday Huddie ‘Lead Belly’ Ledbetter

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Leadbelly 1944

Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

Happy birthday to famed Louisiana-born bluesman Huddie ‘Lead Belly’ Ledbetter, who was born on this day in 1889.

Remembered today as ‘The King Of The 12-String Guitar’ blues players, during WWII, Lead Belly wrote several songs in his own unique personal style encouraging support to both the Allied war effort and President Roosevelt while at the same time decrying the actions and leadership of the Axis Powers.

Click below to hear one of Lead Belly’s best WWII-themed songs, ‘Mr. Hitler’, better known as ‘We’re Gonna Tear Hitler Down.’

This post by Collin Makamson, Family Programs & Outreach Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum

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Normandy Academy: The Eastern Flank

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A recreation of a Horsa Glider at the Pegasus Bridge Museum

The 2014 Normandy Academy will take high school and college students from the pages of history to the beaches and battlefields of Normandy. Students will take an 8 week online course through Nicholls State University that will prepare them to think critically about the causes, events and outcomes of D-Day. Following the course, students will arrive at the Museum to examine documents and artifacts relating to the invasion and its aftermath. Finally, students will spend six days in Normandy following in the footsteps of the soldiers, viewing monuments and museums and interacting with locals.

The first full day of touring will take the students to the eastern flank of the invasion. The day begins with a tour of Pegasus Bridge, the first Allied objective captured on D-Day. In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, Horsa Gliders under the command of Major John Howard of the British 6th Airborne Division landed in fields only several yards from the bridge.  The operation went so smoothly that the element of surprise meant that there was very little German opposition. Howard’s men would repel a small counterattack later that morning, and reinforcements arrived to ensure that the Germans could not retake or destroy the bridge.

The next stop is the Grand Bunker Museum in Ouistreham. The museum is itself an artifact as it was the Fire Control Tower for the area around Sword Beach. The tight spaces inside the bunker reveal the dangerous combat that awaited soldiers as they stormed the beaches in the morning hours. From the observation room, students can look out over the English Channel through a stereoscopic range finder.

After a picnic lunch in Arromanches and a view of the remains of Mulberry “B,” students will view the film Normandy’s 100 Days in the Arromanches 360° Circular Cinema. Featuring archival footage on nine high definition screens that surrounds each viewer, quotes from military leaders in several languages narrate the action.

A poppy field near the artillery battery at Longues sur Mer

A poppy field near the artillery battery at Longues sur Mer

The last site visited is the remnants of a German artillery battery at Longues sur Mer. This is the only German battery in Normandy with the 152 mm guns still in place. This battery engaged in a long duel with British ships on June 6, as the last intact gun continued firing well into the evening. Adjacent to the guns, a field of poppies may be seen depending upon the spring weather in Normandy. After a bus ride back to the hotel, dinner will be enjoyed in small groups at local restaurants.

Registration for the 2014 Normandy Academy is ongoing. To register or receive more information, call 1-877-813-3329, ext. 514 or visit us here.

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Volunteer “Tiger” Hymel Reaches 10,000 Hours

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Roland "Tiger" Hymel receives his gold Four-Star pin from Dr. Mueller

Roland “Tiger” Hymel receives his gold Four-Star pin from Dr. Mueller

Longtime volunteer Roland “Tiger” Hymel recently became the third volunteer in the Museum’s history to contribute 10,000 hours of volunteer service.

Tiger has been volunteering for over ten years and has performed many different tasks around the Museum, including selling memberships, collecting marketing surveys, and monitoring crowds in the Museum galleries.  A Vietnam War veteran and a former New Orleans firefighter, Tiger is also very active with the Boy Scouts and always volunteers to help at the Museum for our annual Boy Scout Day.  Congratulations Tiger for reaching such a remarkable milestone!

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