D. H. Ramsey Library Special Collections and University Archives

Choosing to Remember : From the Shoah to the Mountains
OH-SHOAH

Summary Information

Repository
UNC Asheville Special Collections and University Archives
Title
From Shoah to the Mountains
ID
OH-SHOAH
Date [inclusive]
1999-2004
Extent
0.2 Linear feet  ; 1 box
Physical Description
Summaries and transcripts of oral history interviews, and photocopies of additional materials, such as photographs, documents etc. No audio records of the interviews are included.
Location
Located in Special Collections row 3, section 2
Language
English

Preferred Citation

[Title of Interview], Choosing to Remember : From the Shoah to the Mountains, D. H. Ramsey Library Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville

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Historical Note

The small Jewish community in Asheville, NC talked for years about documenting the stories of families who witnessed, escaped, and survived the horrors of WWII and the Holocaust. In June, 1999 the Center for Diversity Education, a non-profit working to increase the way diversity is covered in schools, began the necessary research. The goal of the project was to create a traveling exhibit for area middle and high schools that would enhance the grade level objectives in the NC Standard Course of Study. The project would use the model of Facing History and Ourselves, focusing on Eyewitness testimony, Primary Source Documents and individual Student Research along with visual images to learn about history.

Each person in the Jewish community was notified of the project. Those who were known to have been involved were individually asked to participate. Several second generation family members came forward, as well.

Maggie Heller, Debi Miles and Randee Goodstadt arranged to meet with each person. From June until December, 1999 over twenty-five people were interviewed. Where possible the interview was taped and, along with detailed notes, diligently recorded. Each person who participated was asked to allow laser copies to be made of family photographs from the 1930's and 40's along with historical documents such as passports, affidavits, concentration camp release forms. A contemporary picture was also requested.

Many of the interviewees began their story stating that since they escaped long before the Death Camps were built their story would not help us much. In reality, their stories record the events that led to the 'final' solution' and that were critical building blocks of the terrible end of 6 million Jews and 5 million others; stories of families in the US who helped or those that didn't, a chance meeting of people in Europe or overseas, split second decisions that carried generations of people forward or ended a line forever. Each of these tales provides complexity and illumination to the Shoah.

Once the interviews were complete, a narrative of the session was typed which was then sent back to the person to check for accuracy. By the end of the research phase, one hundred pages of testimony had been taken along with 150 photographs and documents. Three laser copies were made of the pictures and documents which were then returned to the owner. Once all the interviews were complete, a community story began to emerge spanning a wide scope of diverse experiences from rescuers, to those in hiding, from Survivors to American soldiers.

By January, 2000 it was time to determine what parts of the testimony, pictures and documents would have an impact on students ages 11-17. A small piece of each testimony was excised to fit in a chronological tale from 1933 to the present. The first board displayed artifacts from the Procida family of Nazi propaganda that disclose the early intent of a war on Jews in Germany . The next board talked of families who, early on, looked for ways to leave Europe, for example, the stories of Dick Braun and Ruth Chicurel. Later on, stories of Egon Friedlander during Krystalnacht or Miriam Rudow in Vichy, France, carried the years forward. These are followed by the stories of survivors, Jules Blum, Marcus Reich, and Walter Ziffer. The final boards included the experience of GI's such as Erich Wellisch, ending with second- generation family members, Elise Israel and Sharon Fahrer, who have searched to learn of how their family died fifty years before.

Choosing to Remember : From the Shoah to the Mountains, emerged. Following the exhibits debut at the Jewish Community Center in May, 2000, it traveled to middle schools and high schools and universities and will continue to do so for the years to come. With it goes the complete testimony and a variety of other resources for interested teachers and students to assist in teaching a complete unit. Often someone in the school will recognize a person in the exhibit as a neighbor or the parent of grandparent of a classmate. These personal connections make the horrors of what happened seem not so distant in place and time and increase the impact of the powerful lessons the Shoah teaches.

While the central aim of the project has been to provide this information to schools, a secondary purpose was to archive what was gathered. A copy of the photographs and documents along with a complete text of the interviews were placed in the Special Collections at UNCA Ramsey Library. Special Collections director, Helen Wykle, presented the possibility of putting portions of the exhibit on the Web. Where the boards carry only a small piece of the story, the Web could feature the entire testimony. Thus emerged additional access to these remarkable stories and a strong cooperative spirit between a local community and the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

- Deborah Miles

The project was underwritten by the Western North Carolina Jewish Federation and the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust.

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Scope and Contents

Contains summaries and/or transcripts of twenty-five interviews with people who escaped the persecution of Jews in Europe before and during World War II, and who eventually relocated to Western North Carolina. Copies of the exhibit panels are included but no audio recordings of the interviews are included.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

UNC Asheville Special Collections and University Archives

Ramsey Library, CPO # 1500
One University Heights
Asheville, North Carolina, 28804-8504
828.251.6645
speccoll@unca.edu

Rights

No restrictions. Any display, publication, or public use must credit the D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville. Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Creators

Center for Diversity Education: Maggie Heller, Deborah Miles, Randee Goodstadt ; interviewees as noted

Processing Information

Originally processed by Special Collections staff, dates(s) unknown. New finding aid by Colin Reeve, December 2016.

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Collection Inventory

Horst Baumgarten 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Deborah Miles

Format

Text ; scanned photographs

Scope and Contents

Describes how Horst Baumgarten left Germany for Denmark, when he was fifteen years old, only to be transported to a "model camp" after the Germans invaded Denmark. Life in the camp is outlined, as is the prisoner release negotiated by King Christian X, Baumgarten meeting his wife, and then moving to Detroit after the end of the war.

Additional Materials

Summary ; two scanned photographs of Red Cross buses

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Julius Blum 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Deborah Miles

Format

Text ; copies of scanned documents and photograph

Scope and Contents

Julius Blum describes how he was captured after the Germans invaded Hungary, and sent to Auschwitz, Bireneau, and Mauthausen concentration camps, escaping death in each one. After the war describes helping refugees get to Palestine, before he received a scholarship and moved to the US.

Additional Materials

Summary ; letter of recommendation, 1946 [copy] ; assistance letter, 1946 [copy] ; bestatigung, 1945 [copy] ; family photo, nd [copy] ; immigration status, 1946 [copy] ; former inmate ID, 1945 [copy]

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Richard Braun 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Maggie Heller

Format

Text ; copies of scanned documents and photographs

Scope and Contents

Dick Braun describes life, and the threats he faced, as a Jewish school boy in 1930's Germany, before he and family left Germany for the USA in 1936.

Additional Materials

Summary ; photograph of Dick and Irene Braun, (2000) [copy] ; photograph of Dick, his grandmother and cousin, 1931 [copy] ; Reisepass, 1936 [copy]

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Ruth Chicurel 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Deborah Miles

Format

Text ; copies of scanned photographs ; Polaroid photograph

Scope and Contents

Ruth Chicurel talks about growing up in Munich, and her father's attempt to escape the Nazi's by moving first to Yugoslavia, and then Italy, before returning to Germany, where finding an old letter, finally led to the family being able to immigrate to the US.

Additional Materials

Summary ; photographs of Chicurel family, 1978 [copy] ; Polaroid of Ruth Chicurel and (Judy Haller), nd ; photographs of Ruth Chicurel uncle, aunt, and cousin, nd [copies] ; photograph of Ruth Chicurel, nd [copy] ; photograph of Ruth Chicurel and another woman, (1930s) [copy] ; photograph of Ruth Chicurel her parents and brother, (1930s) [copy] ;

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Hendrik Colijn 

Interview Date and Interviewer

August 26, 2004 ; Idelle Packer

Format

Text ; photograph

Scope and Contents

Hendrik "Hank' Colijn describes his involvement in the Dutch Resistance during the German occupation of the Netherlands.

Additional Materials

Transcript ; photograph of Hendrik Colijn, (2004)

Accession Note

Was not part of the original "From Shoah to the Mountains" projects

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Rubin Feldstein 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Elise Israel

Format

Text

Scope and Contents

Rubin Feldstein describes his childhood in Poland, where his father ran a general store, and talks about be able to immigrate to the US through the assistance of uncle in Wisconsin, describing the journey in some detail.

Additional Materials

Summary

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Egon Friedlander 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Maggie Heller

Format

Text ; scanned photograph and document

Scope and Contents

Contains a detailed account of Egon Friedlander's journey from Austria to South Carolina in 1938/39, written by his granddaughter , which also describes Friedlander's return to Europe with the US Army during WWII.

Additional Materials

Wine, Lauren. One man's journey to freedom ; photograph of Egon Friendlander and (wife), (2000) [copy] ; Reisepass, 1938 [copy]

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Max Heller 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Maggie Heller

Format

Text ; scanned photographs

Scope and Contents

Max Heller talks about growing up in Vienna, and how through meeting a girl from South Carolina at a dance, he and his sister were able to leave Austria and move to the US. He also describes meeting his with Trude, initially in 1937 in Austria, and then again in 1941 when they were both in New York, and talks about their lives in Greenville.

Additional Materials

Summary ; photograph of Max, his sister and Karl Hoffer, 1937 [copy] ; photograph of Mary Mills and other women, nd [copy]

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Trude Heller 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Maggie Heller

Format

Text ; scanned photographs

Scope and Contents

Trude Heller provides a detailed account of her parent's lives, and her life in Vienna before and after the Anschluss, before describing how her father and Egon Friedlander escaped to Belgium, and how she and her mother were later also able to get out of Austria and move to the US., where Trude met up with Max Heller, who she met previously in Austria, and how they subsequently married.

Additional Materials

Summary ; photograph of Trude and Max Heller, May 1941 [copy] ; postcard from Trude to Max Heller, 1939 [copy] ; Trude Heller and her parents, late 1930s [copy]

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Hildegard Hoffman 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Deborah Miles

Format

Text ; scanned photographs

Scope and Contents

Hilde Hoffman describes a childhood in Leipzig Germany, that slowly changed as the Nazi's imposed more and more restrictions on the Jewish population. She outlines how she was able to immigrate to England, where she met an American soldier, whom she married, and how they moved to Asheville,

Additional Materials

Summary ; photograph of Hilde Hoffman with children from an orphanage, (1930s) [copy] ; photograph of Hilde, her friend Lotte, and aunts, (1930s) [copy] ; confirmation photograph of Lotte, (1930s) [copy] ; Hilde and lion cub, (1930s) [copy]

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Robert Janowitz 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Maggie Heller

Format

Text ; scanned photograph and documents

Scope and Contents

Bob Janowitz talks about how his life in Austria changed after March 1938 when the Nazi's invaded, and how through help from the Quakers, he was able to move to England, where he spent WWII. He tells how in England he met Ruth Schakowski, whom he married, and how they moved to the US in 1948.

Additional Materials

Summary ; British registration card, 1939 [copy] ; letter written in German, April 1934 [copy] ; photograph of Bob Janowitz, (2000) [copy]

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Jan Kahn 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Deborah Miles

Format

Text ; scanned photographs

Scope and Contents

A narrative describing (Jan Kahn) leaving England after the start of WWII, traveling to the US, and subsequently returning to the UK. [The narrative seems to be by more than one person, and without audio it is difficult to understand who is speaking, or to follow the sequence of events.]

Additional Materials

Narrative ; photograph of Jan Kahn at camp in the US, 1941 [copy] ; photograph of Jan and Fred Kahn with grandchild, (2000) [copy]

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Majerowicz Family 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Deborah Miles

Format

Text

Scope and Contents

Sharon Fahrer describes the research she undertook to trace the fate of her uncle, aunt and cousin. The documentation also includes a family tree.

Additional Materials

Summary

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Lotte Meyerson 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; unknown

Format

Text ; scanned pages of photograph album

Scope and Contents

Lotte Strauss Meyerson recounts growing up in Darmstadt, Germany, and how she and her parents were able to leave Germany and move to Chicago, where they helped other families escape Germany. She describes meeting and marrying her husband Seymour, and the trips they made to Germany after the war.

Additional Materials

Summary ; copies of photo album pages showing, Hebrew School (1930), family groups (1937), Lotte's parents (1918 & 1921), Lotte and Seymour Meyerson, 1943

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Markus Reich 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; (Maggie Heller)

Format

Text ; scanned photographs

Scope and Contents

Markus Reich talks about being captured by the Germans, after they reached his hometown in Poland, escaping from a slave labor camp, but later being recaptured and being sent to another slave labor camp, and then to Auschwitz. While being transported, he was able to escape again, and he describes meeting the woman who became his wife, and subsequently moving to Asheville, where, eventually, he started his own company.

Additional Materials

Summary ; photograph of Markus Reich and two others after WWII, nd [copy] ; photograph of Markus and Maria Reich in Germany, (mid 1940's) [copy] ; Markus and Maria Reich in Asheville, (2001) [copy]

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Peter Reiser 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; unknown [possibly written submission only]

Format

Text ; scanned photographs

Scope and Contents

Peter Reiser describes growing up in an affluent family in Prague, and be able to emigrate to Palestine after the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia. After initially working on farms, he joined the British Army in 1942 in WWII, and he describes this, as well as how he discovered that most of his family died in concentration camps, and his service in the Israeli navy. He outlines meeting his wife, describes how his cousin married Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank, before explaining how he moved to the US in 1965.

Additional Materials

Summary ; photographs of Peter and Stefan Reiser, and Peter and Rita Reiser, all nd [copies] ; photographs of Otto Frank and Peter's son, nd, and Peter his brother, mother and grandmother, 1928 [copies] ; photographs of Peter Reiser and his sons, nd and Peter's mother and cousin Fritzi Frank, nd [copies]

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Rita Reiser 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; unknown [possibly written submission only]

Format

Text ; scanned photographs and document

Scope and Contents

Rita Reiser describes how when she was seven weeks old, her mother and siblings moved from Palestine to Hamburg, Germany, where her father owned a shop. She outlines how, despite worsening conditions for Jews, her father refused to leave, until the family was unable to do so, but Rita was able to obtain a British for Palestine passport, and at fourteen years old, moved to England, leaving her parents behind. After WWII she moved back to Palestine, and she describes how she met her husband there, and served in the Israeli army until she gave birth to their first child, and how the family subsequently moved to Asheville.

Additional Materials

Summary ; photographs of Rita as a child, with her family, in the Israeli army, and with her sons, all undated [copies] ; copy of identity card, 1939

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Frederick John Rosenthal 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; unknown [possibly written submission only]

Format

Text ; scanned photographs and documents

Scope and Contents

John Rosenthal describes growing up in Cologne, Germany, and talks at length about the hardship of being Jewish in 1930's Nazi Germany, and how his family was able to move to the US in 1939. They settled in New York City, and he outlines life there before Pearl Harbor, after which he enlisted in the Army and trained in Military Intelligence, before being stationed in Belgium. He describes his life after the war when he trained as a librarian, and worked at the Library of Congress. [Note: This summary is also included in the, WWII: Mountain Memories Collection.]

Additional Materials

Summary ; photograph of Rosenthal in uniform, 1943 [copy] ; photograph of Jewish school in Ulm, nd [copy] ; photographs of Rosenthal as a boy, and during WWII [copies] ; Reisepass, 1938 [copy]; letter of commendation, 1945 [copy]

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Miriam Rudow 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Deborah Miles

Format

Text ; scanned photographs and documents

Scope and Contents

Miriam Rudow describes growing up in Antwerp, Belgium, and how she and her family managed to escape the Nazis by moving to Vichy France, and eventually, the US.

Additional Materials

Summary ; photograph of the Rudow family, (2000) [copy] ; envelope sent to Miriam in Portugal, 1941 [copy] ; (Miriam, her mother and sister), nd [copy]

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Karl Straus 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Deborah Miles [Although it is unclear if an interview actually took place]

Format

Text ; scanned document

Scope and Contents

Contain transcript of Karl Straus' speech to new US Citizens, May 1970. [There is no record of any interview]

Additional Materials

Speech transcript ; copies of pages from, the German-English Dictionary of German Administrative Terms

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George Tushak 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Maggie Heller [Interviewee is Elise Israel]

Format

Text

Scope and Contents

Elsie Israel describes how her father, George Tushak, was able to leave Vienna for Switzerland, and eventually the US, where shortly after arriving in 1941, he was drafted into the army. She also talks about her research into her family history.

Additional Materials

Summary

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Jeanette Vanderwart 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Maggie Heller [Who may have interviewed Mark Vanderwart, although it is unclear if an interview actually took place]

Format

Text ; scanned photographs

Scope and Contents

Description of how Jeanette Goldberg Vandewart traveled to the US in 1936, leaving her parents behind in Kassel Germany, where they survived the war, and able to join Jeanette in the US. There is a also a description of how Jeanette met and married Josef Vandewart, and after initially living in New York City , they moved to Asheville.

Additional Materials

Summary ; photograph of Jeanette mother and father with other family members, nd [copy] ; photograph of Jeannette Vandewart and her granddaughter, nd [copy] ; letter from Jeanette Vandewart requesting visas for her parents, 1945 [copy]

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Joseph Vandewart 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Maggie Heller [Who may have interviewed Mark Vanderwart, although it is unclear if an interview actually took place]

Format

Text ; scanned photograph

Scope and Contents

Brief outline of how Joseph Vanderwart, was arrested by the Nazis in Ober-Riedenberg, Germany, but released, and was subsequently able to obtain a visa to the US, traveling with his sister and her husband. There is a description of how soon after arriving in New York, he met and married Jeanette Goldberg.

Additional Materials

Summary ; photograph of Joseph and Jeanette Vandewart, nd [copy]

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Eric Wellisch 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Deborah Miles

Format

Text ; scanned photographs and documents

Scope and Contents

Eric Wellisch describes how his life changed after Kristallnacht in 1938, and how he managed to leave Austria for the United States, where he joined the US Army and fought in WWII. He talks about how his cousin Erna survived the war at Theresienstadt camp, and the "Jewish money" used there. [The summary of this interview is also included in the World War II: Mountain Memories collection.]

Additional Materials

Summary ; photocopies of "Jewish money" ; photographs of WWII scenes and (Eric Wellisch and his wife) including one with Bill Highsmith [copies]

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Walter Ziffer 

Interview Date and Interviewer

(1999) ; Maggie Heller

Format

Text ; scanned photographs and documents

Scope and Contents

Walter Ziffer describes how after the start of WWII in September 1939, his family were forced from their home in Cesky-Tesin, Czechoslovakia , and eventually lived in a ghetto, before, at the age of 14, Walter was deported to a labor camp. He talks about the spending the next four years in various camps and the hardships suffered, before the Russians liberated the camp, and he was able to reconnect with his family. He outlines moving to the US on a student visa, and how be was able to obtain permanent residency through the assistance of his local senator.

Additional Materials

Summary ; letter from Ester Kefauver, US Senator, 1950 [copy] ; Czech identity card, nd [copy] ; Bill S.2810 from 81st Congress regarding immigration status of Walter Ziffer, 1950 [copy] ; photograph of Walter Ziffer, (2000) [copy] ; Ziffer family photograph, late 1930s [copy] ; photograph of Walter Ziffer and George Loeffler, 1940 [copy] ; scan of Star of David armband

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Supplemental Information - Copies of exhibit panels for, Choosing to Remember: From Shoah to the Mountains [19 pages] 

Exhibit Panels

Exhibit Panels

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