YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Certain pictures can be associated with the Holocaust, the genocide of European Jews during World War II. But behind the faces in the pictures are stories, some of which were later told by people who settled around Youngstown. A professor at Youngstown State University recorded them, and now they’ve been digitized for all to hear and never forget.
They take up just a square foot of table space, but the stories told in the professor’s old 58 cassette tapes contain first-person accounts of one of humanity’s darkest times from people like Alex Gross.
Voice of Gross: “But then our entire car, which I don’t know, there were 70 or 80 or 100 people who originally started off with. Only four of us remained alive.”
“When we were going through all these materials, we found the box of tapes,” said Nic Bush with the Youngstown Jewish Community Center.
Bush says the tapes were found among the boxes of research of the late YSU professor Dr. Saul Friedman, who between 1973 and 1994 interviewed around 50 people who witnessed the Holocaust.
Voice of Dr. Friedman: “And they stripped everyone down before they let you go? [Yes.] Including women and children? [Yes.]”
Bill Vegh was from Czechoslovakia. He spent two months in Auschwitz.
Voice of Vegh: “At night when the wind was a certain way, you could smell the flesh.”
“They’ve kind of just been sitting here so we thought this is the time to finally digitize them and show them for the next generation as well,” Bush said.
“It is kind of a full circle moment for me,” said Connie Jones of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.
Jones, who took Dr. Friedman’s Holocaust class, did the digitizing. The Historical Society is now storing the original tapes.
“It’s so important to preserve and that’s, of course, what we do at the Historical Society is preserve the stories. But this is a special thing for me. It’s a special time. It’s just very moving,” Jones said.
Voice of survivor Frances Honigman: “It’s a funny thing how we start to be like animals. They tell us to take off our clothes, shave off the hair. No hair, no clothes. One look at the next one and we look like wild animals.”
“I’ve listened to a good portion of them and they’re very emotional. They’re hard to listen to but they’re important to listen to,” Bush said.
To listen to the tapes, visit JewishYoungstown.org and click on the “Our Community” tab. From there, you can listen to any of the 50 people tell their stories of the Holocaust.