Columbia State to host ‘Survivors and Liberators: Stories of the Concentration Camps’

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Columbia State Community College assistant professor of history Dr. Anna Duch will host Zoom lecture “Survivors and Liberators: Stories of the Concentration Camps” on March 23 at 4 p.m.

“I went into my research as a historian that was willing to accept some very ugly information,” Duch said. “In general, when people do genealogical research, they want to be related to a famous person or a founding father; they don’t expect to kick a hornet’s nest.”

Through her personal family history, Duch will discuss concentration camps and how World War II from 1939 to 1945, changed the lives of two Ukrainian laborers and an Irish boy from Queens, New York. She wishes to combat Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism in a way in which people can empathize.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex, delegates and representatives visit the Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp in Oswiecim, Poland on Jan. 27, 2022, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day marking the 77th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex, delegates and representatives visit the Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp in Oswiecim, Poland on Jan. 27, 2022, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day marking the 77th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

“Survivors and Liberators is ultimately about what families don’t talk about,” Duch said. “My grandfather who liberated Dachau never told my mother he did that; all he said was that he fought in Italy, fought in Germany, and that he saw a part of Germany that was pretty, but the smell of war never left him. It wasn’t until recently that we figured out that he was referring to the scent of death, of medical experiments, of burning from Dachau. In the same way, my Ukrainian grandparents were mostly mute about their life before the war – because everyone else ended up dead or stuck behind the Iron Curtain. They suffered in concentration camps as forced laborers – this isn’t the type of story you tell your child at bedtime.”

Personalized stamps from WWII of John Cox sit at his apartment at the Village of Westland in Westland on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. Cox is a WWII veteran and will be 102 years old on March 10.
Personalized stamps from WWII of John Cox sit at his apartment at the Village of Westland in Westland on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. Cox is a WWII veteran and will be 102 years old on March 10.

Using genealogical research, Duch will trace the path of one grandfather as an 'old' enlistee into World War II and the invasion of Salerno. Through the Arolsen Archives, she also presents evidence of the pre-war lives of her Ukrainian grandparents, who were kidnapped and put to forced labor in German concentration camps.

“A person must be willing to accept any outcome of their research, even if it destroys some sacred family mythos or changes the narrative of a person’s life,” Duch said about her research.

“If they aren’t willing to find skeletons, then they should not go digging.”

The lecture will take place on March 23 at 4 p.m. via Zoom. Participants should preregister at https://columbiastate.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEpcuysrj8rE920jTAmCtTDtmOTFvmvQrPz.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Herald: Columbia State hosts ‘Survivors and Liberators' lecture on WWII