Another milestone of the [Texas Holocaust and Genocide] Commission's great work. --George H. W. Bush
I looked at the prisoners in their striped garb, so filthy and decimated. One of them moved, and I went over to him, and he said, "Bist a Yid?" Are you Jewish? I said, "Ich bin a Yid." I am Jewish. And then I told him, "Alles geet. Alles geet." I speak a little Yiddish. . . . And-"Alles geet. Alles geet." All is good. All is good. And I opened my C rations and fed him a little soup-made a little soup for him. And he died two hours later in my arms. And I asked him what his name was. He said, "Meine namen ist Herman." "Ich." My name is Herman, too. So I had tears in my eyes, and I cry every time I think about it. This poor guy, he was about forty years old and weighed about fifty pounds, maybe. And that's how much he had been maltreated. That's a hell of a load for a young fellow, nineteen years old. --from the book
By April 1945, Allied troops of both America and the Soviet Union had established control over Germany and German-occupied Poland. General Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the liberation of the concentration camps that the Nazis used for the imprisonment, forced labor, and extermination of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Communists, political prisoners, and common criminals. The liberating soldiers--many as young as eighteen--were shocked beyond imagination at what they saw in these camps.
Within these covers twenty-one Texas Liberators speak compellingly in their own words. They describe their discovery of the camps, their first encounters with detainees, the repression of certain memories in order to survive and live their lives, and the feeling by many that "normal" would never be normal again. This testimony allows all of us to begin to understand the sacrifices made in the name of freedom.
Accompanying many of the narratives are recent portraits of the surviving Liberators. The stark, profound images capture a range of expressions and emotions in these elderly gentleman, leading to an even deeper connection to their experiences.
Aliza Wong is an associate professor of history and associate dean of the Honors College at Texas Tech University. She is the author of Race and Nation in Liberal Italy, 1861-1911: Meridionalism, Empire, and Diaspora.
Mark Umstot is a portrait and commercial photographer from Lubbock, Texas.