Photo of Alfred Schnog from March 3 presentationIt’s one thing to read about the Holocaust and Nazi Germany in books or see black and white pictures. It’s another to hear the startling, personal memories of a Jewish person who was there and survived.

On Kristallnacht, the nationwide German pogrom in November 1938 that is often identified as the official beginning of the Holocaust, Alfred Schnog saw the destruction firsthand. In Cologne, Germany, he watched Nazi thugs destroy and loot Jewish businesses, then saw his own synagogue burned down.

On March 3 at UNCG’s Curry Auditorium, he told of the family’s difficult escape from Germany – of his father eating documents to ensure they were not found. Of his mother telling the Nazi border guards she would kill her sons and herself on the spot, if they tried to separate the family. Of life in Holland, with his parents and grandparents. The visa that allowed his parents, his brother and him go to the United States, and their expecting their grandparents in Holland would soon follow. In about a month, Holland was taken over and ultimately the grandparents were killed in a Nazi concentration camp.

He had left in the nick of time. And he has never forgotten his blessings and the actions of his brave parents and those who helped them on their way to America and to establishing a new life.

In recent years, Schnog has begun to tell of what he saw. At the WW II Museum in New Orleans, he saw a huge picture of bombed out Cologne, Germany. He displayed it to the audience. He pointed out sites he had known, that were a part of his personal history.

After his riveting talk, several students came to the mic to ask questions. Lots of students went to the stage to greet him and ask more questions, as he finished his presentation.

The Holocaust may seem long ago. The students hearing him talk realize it wasn’t so long ago at all.

The talk was sponsored by a Kohler Fund grant from the UNCG International Programs Center, the UNCG Department of Communication Studies and the UNCG Department of History.

Dr. Roy Schwartzman (UNCG Communication Studies) introduced the speaker.

Schwartzman is principal investigator for the AfterWords Project, a collaboration with The North Carolina Council on the Holocaust. The AfterWords Project collects, preserves and analyzes the resettlement stories of Holocaust survivors and witnesses from the time they came to the United States to the present. It focuses on those living in North Carolina.

UNCG is one of only 50 institutions in the world that offer unlimited access to the Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive, Schwartzman told the audience. Students and visiting researchers can see videos of complete survivor testimonies in this archive of 52,000 eyewitness accounts. Students and other researchers also have access to UNCG’s North Carolina Holocaust Education, Research, and Outreach (NC HERO) online resources.

Those with questions about Holocaust and genocide-related courses and UNCG resources may contact Schwartzman, a Shoah Foundation Institute Teaching Fellow, at rjschwar@uncg.edu.

Posted by Mike Harris. Photograph of Schnog at UNCG 4 p.m. panel discussion, by Caitlin Alexander.