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Concentration Camp Liberators

Thursday, April 29th, 2010 | Posted in Events by Paul Trusik | Comments Off

Author Talk with Michael Hirsh

On March 31st Bill Garrison, Dean of the USF Libraries, welcomed a standing-room-only crowd to the Tampa Library’s Grace Allen Room to hear author Michael Hirsh discuss his new book, The Liberators: America’s Witnesses to the Holocaust. Dr. Mark Greenberg, Director of the Libraries Special and Digital Collections, introduced Hirsh’s longtime friend, Dr. Jay Wolfson, who formally introduced the author. Dr. Wolfson is the distinguished Service Professor of Public Health and Medicine and the Associate Vice President for Health Law, Policy and Safety at USF in Tampa.

In his work, Hirsh allows the people he interviews to tell their own stories and to bear witness to one of the worst events in recorded history:

“The compounds were packed with the skinniest people you ever saw in your life. Huge, huge eyes. The eyes is what I remember most. And they had pajamalike garb on, blue and white stripes. There were hundreds that we could see, and we never did see the full extent of the camp. And the eeriest thing about it was, there was not a sound. It was just incredible; not a sound out of them. You never saw people like this before.” – Norman Fellman Hirsh, M. (2010). The Liberators: America’s Witnesses to the Holocaust. New York: Bantam Books.

Norman Fellman’s account of Berga an der Elster, the Nazi slave-labor camp, is from a perspective much different from that of many of Hirsh’s interviewees. Norman Fellman’s account is from the inside and his story is just one of the many fascinating stories told to author Hirsh for his book.

Pictured here author Michael Hirsh with the family of LeRoy Petersohn.

Another compelling story Hirsh recounted was about LeRoy Petersohn, a medic with the 11th Armored Division who saved the life of a three-week-old baby at Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria (liberated May 5, 1945 by the 11th Armored Division).

Mr. Petersohn tells this story during his interview with Michael Hirsh that is available as part of the USF Libraries Oral History Program Concentration Camp Liberators OHP – http://guides.lib.usf.edu/ohp » Mr. Petersohn tells Hirsh how, on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp, he was reunited in Austria with Hana Berger Moran, the baby he had saved sixty years earlier. Hana’s story is told in Hirsh’s book, and her story helps the reader to understand the importance of a single life.

What Michael Hirsh conveys with his inspirational book, and what comes through loud and clear in the voices of the liberators he interviewed, is the humanity of the individual.

 

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