In April 1945, a young officer marching through Austria with General Patton's Third Army saw dead and dying victims of Nazi genocide. Months later, as a reporter for The Stars and Stripes newspaper, he watched Nazi officers tried for war crimes at Nuremberg, Germany. Years later, he discovered that his missing maternal grandfather had been killed in a Nazi concentration camp in Poland.
Judge Norbert Ehrenfreund's searing personal experiences of the Holocaust shaped his belief in the power of justice and led him to pursue a career in law. He shared his remarkable story at a March 7 Holocaust Living History Workshop event at Geisel Library, held as part of the “Witnessing History” lecture series. Launched in January by the UC San Diego Holocaust Living History Workshop (HLHW), which is a joint venture of the UC San Diego Libraries and the Judaic Studies Program, "Witnessing History" features presentations by local Holocaust survivors to convey the experience of history in the making.
In his March 7 talk, Ehrenfreund related his three perspectives on the Holocaust: as a soldier who witnessed Nazi horrors, a journalist who covered the Nuremberg trials, and the grandson of a Nazi victim. In the years that followed, he set aside feelings of pain and grief to focus on the redemptive value of justice under the law. Inspired by the international Nuremberg proceedings, he became a lawyer and served a distinguished 30-year career as a San Diego Superior Court judge.
In his remarkable book The Nuremberg Legacy: How the Nazi War Crimes Trial Changed the Course of History, Ehrenfreund writes that "the ideas spawned at Nuremberg – the concepts of justice and human rights – have spread across much of the world … Today Nuremberg touches aspects of our society in ways beyond our ken in 1945."
HLHW seeks to acquaint the San Diego community with the Visual History Archive, the world's largest database of Holocaust testimony. Established by film director Steven Spielberg during the making of his Oscar-winning "Schindler’s List," the Visual History Archive is housed at the USC Shoah Foundation Institute. The UC San Diego Libraries are one of only three university libraries with access to the online archive, which includes approximately 52,000 testimonies of Holocaust survivors and witnesses. Since HLHW's 2007 inception, more than 1,000 people have attended workshop presentations and events at UC San Diego.
The Winter 2012 "Witnessing History" line-up began on January 25 with a talk by Andrew Viterbi, former UC San Diego electrical engineering professor and co-founder of Linkabit and Qualcomm, who recalled how his extended family fled Europe to avoid Nazi persecution. Other speakers in the Winter series were Robert Nichols, M.D., who on February 15 recounted fleeing Berlin as a child to escape Nazi persecution, and Yale University historian Timothy Snyder, who spoke on March 12 of the unified approach to 20th-century history outlined in his book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.
The Spring 2012 "Witnessing History" series began April 18 with a lecture by Michael Bart, author of the award-winning book, Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance. The two remaining events in the series are a May 23 talk on "The Politics of Memory" by Tal Golan, a professor of history and son of a Holocaust survivor, and a June 6 presentation on "Hiding from the Nazis" by Samuel Horowitz, a philanthropist who escaped Nazi persecution as a child when his family went into hiding in the Ukraine.
Free and open to the public, HLHW events take place in the Geisel Library's Seuss Room from 5 to 7 p.m. For more information on the "Witnessing History" series and the HLHW, contact Susanne Hillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to: http://libraries.ucsd.edu/hhlw.