Local Holocaust survivors work to preserve their stories

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Holocaust survivors in the Chicago area are working with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to preserve their stories and the stories of their loved ones. (WLS)

Holocaust survivors and the families of victims in the Chicago area are working with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to preserve their stories and the stories of their loved ones.

By turning over their keepsakes, they hope to keep those memories alive.

Beatrice Muchman, 89, is a Holocaust survivor. As a Jewish-German child, she and a cousin were hidden by two Catholic sisters after her family fled to Belgium to escape the Nazis.

"The Nazis were all around us, but we were two little Catholic children, nothing was going to happen to us," she recalls.

Muchman's parents were killed, but she survived the war and eventually ended up in the U.S., where she was adopted by an aunt and uncle living in in Chicago. Once again she is sharing her memories of that dark time by turning over her keepsakes to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

"You know, long after I'm gone, this will have a place," Muchman says.

In 1992 her daughter found an old shopping bag filled with faded letters written by her parents in the 1940s, documents and olds photographs chronicling her family's tragic experience. It's a history that is important not to lose, says museum curator Suzy Snyder.

"Survivors will not be with us forever, but will be with us forever are the documents, the photos, the materials," says Snyder.

Snyder has been traveling around the country meeting with survivors and their families, gathering first- and secondhand accounts from storytellers. The hope is to display the artifacts from World War II at the museum's archive and research facility in Maryland beginning in 2018.

"We have so many different stories, and each one has its power," says Jill Weinberg of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Muchman admits that letting go of her keepsakes is difficult but necessary if it can teach people about the intolerance and hate of the Holocaust.

"How does this evil develop? Who starts this? What's the moment when you could have done or said something and you didn't?" she says.
Related Topics:
societyholocaustmuseumshistoryWorld War IIChicago - Downtown
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