By Mitch Borden
Last week, people gathered at Midland College Library for a memorial service honoring Holocaust victims as a part of a global remembrance day. The event also took the time to celebrate the Texas Liberators, a group of soldiers who helped free prisoners from concentration camps during World War II.
A crowd of over 50 people quietly gathered for the service where individuals stood up and spoke the names of some of those who were lost in the Holocaust. The purpose of this was to make sure the memories of those killed during the genocide wouldn’t be lost to history.
The event was held alongside an exhibit at the college called the “Texas Liberators” which highlighted the stories of Texas’ World War II Veterans. Like Dr. J. Ted Hartman, who in the spring of 1945, was a young soldier going down a road in Germany when something strange happened.
He recounted, “We started seeing these people coming out from the trees and then getting in the road.”
The figures emerging from the forest were wearing striped uniforms. They looked like prisoners, but Hartman wasn’t sure who they were. He also didn’t know that he was on his way to Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp, and, that these people were survivors of the Holocaust.
He then explained, “They would absolutely stop us and kiss the front of the tank or they’d salute us. You know, I couldn’t help but cry myself. I had never seen anything like that. I couldn’t understand.”
Stories like Hartman’s are at the heart of the exhibit. Over 500 Texas veterans have been identified as liberators according to Frank Kaszman, one of the organizers of the exhibition, but he says only a fraction of them are still alive.
He said, “These guys were unbelievable heroes. What they did saved lives. “
The liberator’s stories are being immortalized in the exhibit as well as in a book and online. Kazman believes it’s important for younger generations to know the story of the Holocaust and the men who helped free concentration camps.
For Midland resident Mikayla Matta, the stories of Texas soldiers are especially important right now.
“They’re heroes in our history and to have their accounts it really says a lot especially in a time when people are even doubting the holocaust happened, and more acts against Jewish people in the United States currently.”
Candles were lit during the memorial service for victims of the Holocaust and for the 12 people who lost their lives at shootings at synagogues in San Diego and Pittsburgh over the last year. Later on, the ceremony came to a close with everyone standing to say one final prayer.
Monday and Tuesday are the last days to see the Texas Liberators exhibit at the Fasken Library on the Midland College Campus. It’s free to the public and can be viewed on the second floor of the library.