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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


April 21, 2017  RSS feed

Text: T T T

Museum, Eckerd to present 25 Holocaust survivor stories

Walter Loebenberg as a boy in Germany and today in the Holocaust Museum archival vault where his interview took place. Walter Loebenberg as a boy in Germany and today in the Holocaust Museum archival vault where his interview took place. The Florida Holocaust Museum, celebrating its 25th anniversary, has set out to tell the stories of 25 Holocaust survivors.

Titled “25 Survivors, 25 Stories ... Celebrating 25 Years!,” over the next 25 months, the museum will profile a different Holocaust survivor on the 25th of every month, with many of them from the Tampa Bay area. The stories will be added monthly on the museum’s website.

To complete the project, the museum is partnering with Eckerd College. Students will be participating in interviewing the survivors and compiling their personal account and views. Each survivor brings an individual voice that enhances one’s understanding of the Holocaust, the war’s effects on individuals, families and communities dispersed across the world and its reverberations into the present.

The first story was released March 25 and features Walter Loebenberg of St. Petersburg, the founder of the Holocaust museum.

Loebenberg was born in a small village in Germany but the family had moved to Frankfurt, where he was studying to be Bar Mitzvah, when Kristallnacht happened. A bakery where he was an apprentice was burned, along with many other Jewish-owned businesses, and his synagogue was demolished. Very soon after that the family booked passage on the ill-fated ship MS St. Louis to Cuba, but at the last minute switched and booked on the SS Manhattan. The family was detained on Ellis Island for four months but eventually was let into the country. Later Loebenberg served in the U.S. Army and received the Bronze Star medal from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower for aiding in an interrogation that helped save the lives of many American soldiers.

An excerpt from Loebenberg’s profile, relating how, on the same day he witnessed the Kristallnacht damage, he was among thousands of Jews rounded up to be sent on the first train from Frankfurt to a concentration camp. A Germen soldier pulled Loebenberg aside and the story relates what came next:

Walter walked to the end of the hall, and there he met 10 other teenage boys. They were tasked with sweeping the floor as the rest of the Jewish men were evacuated. When the hall was emptied, they swept until the floor was clean. Police officers surrounded the group and ordered them to march from the hall. The youths were marched into the street and past a jeering crowd.

“Mostly women,” Walter said. “They wanted to kill us.”

When they reached the street, the police officers jumped aside.

“We were all young,” Walter said, “and we could run, so I ran home, hours and hours through the night.”

To read Loebenberg’s story in its entirety, and the stories of others as they are posted, go to:

The story of Polish-born survivor Mary Wygodski will be posted on April 25. She was the oldest of three sisters and one brother. At the age of 15, her family was sent to the Vilna Ghetto before she was separated from her mother and two sisters in 1943, never to see them again. Her father and brother were executed in a concentration camp in Klooga, Estonia.

Wygodski was transported to two different labor camps and the Stutthof Death Camp in Germany. At one camp, she was forced to make artillery shells for the Nazis.

In the coming months, the museum will present numerous free 25th Anniversary celebratory programs, events, and exhibitions, along with its daily educational and outreach efforts.

The museum is located at 55 Fifth St. S., St. Petersburg. For more information, call (727) 820-0100.

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