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Ours to Fight For- Exhibition Public Opening at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center

Museum Executive Director Rick Hirschhaut addresses audience at The

Museum Executive Director Rick Hirschhaut addresses audience at The

February 20, 2012
"Ours to Fight For- Amercian Jews in the Second World War" exhibit opened to the public on Feburary 19 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, Illinois. The exhibit runs through June 17.

Th exhibit was named 2004 Grand-Prize winner of the Excellence in Exhibition Competition at the American Association of Museums’ annual meeting. The exhibition was curated by the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. The Skokie appearance is its debut in the Midwest.

Dr. Louis D. Levine, founding Director of Collections and Exhibitions at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, was the keynote speaker. Many in the audience, including this reporter, were children of parents who served in the armed forces during Second World War. Scattered through the audience were veterans, some of whom wore hats as souvenirs of their service.

Dr. Levine spoke highly of those who made the ultimate sacrifice and provided stories of courage displayed by Jewish veterans during the war, such as Rabbi Gittelsohn on Iwo Jima.

The exhibition features hundreds of artifacts including a Torah scroll used by Chaplain Rabbi David Max Eichhorn at the first Jewish service conducted at Dachau after the camp was liberated

For this reporter, the exhibition highlight is the "Wall of Honor" featuring photographs of nearly 400 local World War II service people. One of those photographs is of my late father, Arthur Greenberg, who went into active service on July 16, 1942. After basic training, my father was a supply sergeant in a medical detachment posted at the Clinton Prisoner of War Stockade/Camp –Clinton, Mississippi- 6 miles from Jackson, Mississippi. In February , 1944 , he was in charge of the German Officer Barracks which included General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim, who was the commander of the Afrika Corps (Rommel left for France and ultimately an attempt on Hitler’s life.). Von Arnim was captured by the British in May, 1943 and spent the rest of the war as a POW at Camp Clinton, Mississippi, along with 24 other German officers. A Jew guarding Nazis in prison, how fitting. In October, 1944, my father was transferred to France and was stationed there until the end of fighting in Europe.

My father never volunteered much about his service record. When asked about it, a typical response was “ Nothing to really talk about. Saw no action. “. It was not until after my parents passed away, that I discovered my father’s unique service record. I found approximately 50 letters my mother received from my father during the war. A number of letters described his adventures at Camp Clinton. In addition, there was a photo album of his time in basic training in Texas, a couple of his time in Camp Clinton (one submitted for the exhibition) and numerous photos of adventures on leave in France. His discharge papers document his service record at Camp Clinton.

I proudly submitted a war time photograph of my father posing on a jeep, and a brief summary of his experiences guarding Nazis in Mississippi. This photograph is now on exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center along with his Jewish colleagues in arms during that time.

I highly recommend people of all colors, creeds, and religions to attend this exhibit. There are stations allowing visitors to explore how different groups who served in the military during the war experienced World War II. Represented are African Americans, Japanese Americans, Native Americans, Chinese Americans and Latinos.

Michael Greenberg is a Northbrook resident and photographer owner of ImageTripping LLC, a web based business. His images can be viewed at www.imagetripping.com.

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