Dachau liberator makes history come alive

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Seeing and hearing directly from an eyewitness can make history come alive. While we’ve all learned about the Holocaust in textbooks and class, not all of us have had the chance to listen to an eyewitness account from a concentration camp liberator.

On Thursday, April 19, Whitman and Walla Walla community members will get the opportunity to hear from Dee Eberhart, a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Army 42nd Rainbow Division credited with liberating the infamous Nazi concentration camp at Dachau.

The lecture, sponsored by Whitman club Hillel-Shalom and the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center, is in honor of Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day.  In past years, remembrance day speakers have been Holocaust survivors, but this upcoming lecture offers a different perspective.

“As far as I know, it’s the first time we’ve had somebody speak publicly who was a solider who liberated a concentration camp,” said Sharon Kaufman-Osborn, the adviser of Hillel-Shalom.

First-year Miriam Moran, a member of Hillel-Shalom, is excited to attend the lecture and hear about the Holocaust from the viewpoint of a liberator.

“I’ve heard a lot from the perspectives of survivors of the Holocaust within my own community, but the perspective of a liberator is something I haven’t really heard much about. It will be really cool to learn something new,” said Moran.

Eberhart will be telling the story in terms of what he witnessed at Dachau, a major Nazi concentration camp responsible for the deaths of more than 28,000 people.

Eberhart’s platoon, which was attached to the first Battalion 222 Infantry for the attack against Munich, arrived at the Dachau concentration camp complex on April 29, 1945.  There, he witnessed a horrifying scene––stacks of bodies, starving prisoners and crematoriums.

Eberhart  has been speaking publicly about his experience since 1992, and “weaves the story around three related themes: the perpetrators, the victims and the liberating armies.”

Kaufman-Osborn says that this lecture offers a wake-up call for the campus, a chance to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and to think about the Holocaust’s devastation.

“It’s also a reminder of current tragedies going on all over the world,” said Kaufman-Osborn.

Member of Hillel-Shalom, first-year Sabra Jaffe helped organize the lecture and encourages students and community members to take advantage of this unique  opportunity while they still can.

“We’re probably the last generation to be able to hear from survivors or liberators who were there and can tell us to our faces what happened,” said Jaffe.

The lecture is will be held on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Young Ballroom. The lecture is free of charge and open to the public.

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