February 09, 2020

Commission Unveils Exhibit Honoring Georgians at State Capitol

Six Georgians with ties to the Holocaust are honored in a newly installed permanent exhibition at the Georgia State Capitol. The exhibit, “Georgia’s Connection to the Holocaust,” was unveiled in a ceremony Jan. 27 coinciding with International Holocaust Remembrance Day and following a Resolution read during that morning’s House session recognizing the significance of the date. 

The stories told in the exhibit, entitled relate accounts of both Holocaust survivors and those who were witnesses to liberation. Each also made a decision to share their personal stories so that the experiences and lessons of this history are never forgotten.  

The exhibit panels honor the following individuals and their stories:

Manuela Mandels Bornstein:  Life changed dramatically for Manuela’s family after the German invasion of France in 1940. The family managed to escape Paris and miraculously avoided the fate of deportation and murder that befell over 13,000 Jews who were rounded up and left for days in the July heat in the Velodrome d’Hiver. Despite the constant danger, Manuela’s family managed to survive the war in the south of France. 

Murray Lynn:  After his father was taken and killed by the Nazi-aligned Hungarian police in 1942, Murray, along with his three brothers and mother, were deported to Auschwitz. Murray, who barely survived the horrific conditions of forced labor, was the only survivor of his immediate family and was just 15 years old when at last liberated by American troops in 1945.

Tosia Szechter Schneider:  Like so many, Tosia Szechter Schneider, from Horodenka, Poland, suffered unbearable loss. After Tosia’s father was taken by the Gestapo and never seen again and her mother succumbed to typhus in the Tluste Ghetto, Tosia, then just 14, and her older brother, lied about their ages and became forced labor farm workers. This at least kept them out of the death camps. Yet, in another blow, her brother was shot, and Tosia was the only member of her immediate family to survive the war.

Henry Birnbrey:   Both a survivor and a witness to liberation, Henry was born in Dortmund, Germany, and in 1923, Henry was sent to America alone in 1938. He later learned that both his parents had died following the terror of Kristallnacht. Five years after arriving in the United States, Henry joined the U.S. Army and participated in the Normandy invasion in 1944. As his unit advanced through Europe, he saw first-hand the horrors that European Jews had endured.

William Alexander Scott III:  A young African American soldier serving in a segregated unit, W.A. Scott was ill-prepared for what he and his comrades saw when they entered the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany on April 11, 1945.  As a photographer, it was W.A.’s job to document what they saw. He recalled: “You have to witness it to even begin to believe it…”  Impacted by his experiences, W.A. Scott later served as member of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust and was appointed by President George Bush to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

John Yates:  In the spring of 1945, John Yates, born in 1921 in Griffin, Ga., was sent as a military observer during the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. The horrors he saw there, where nearly 200,000 victims had been imprisoned between 1933 and 1945, had a profound effect on him. Yates, who went on to serve 20 years in the Georgia House of Representatives, believed that Holocaust education could prevent such tragedy from ever happening again. 

Four of the exhibit honorees – Tosia Schneider, Murray Lynn, Manuela Bornstein and Henry Birnbrey -- attended the unveiling ceremony along with dignitaries from international consulates and a number of elected Georgia officials.  Those who made remarks included Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, Israel Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon, Rabbi Peter Berg, and Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick and Rep. Deborah Silcox, who are the two appointed state legislative liaisons to the Georgia Holocaust commission.

In her remarks, Sally Levine, director of the commission, said, “We are the messengers to a time our precious survivors and witnesses will not see. They are emissaries of Holocaust memory. Their determination to tell their stories and the stories of those who did not survive, serves as a testament to their dedication and courage. They have spoken to students and our communities, they have written memoirs, and they have recorded their testimonies. They have done this, no matter the pain it causes, because they understand the consequences of unchecked hate, anti-Semitism and racism. They have spoken out to fight the silence, the silence of ordinary people, who, during the Holocaust, abdicated their responsibility to protect their neighbors, classmates, co-workers and friends. They remind us that we need to be guardians of justice, freedom and humanity.”

“Georgia’s Connection to the Holocaust” is installed on the first floor of the Capitol building.  As part of the Capitol tour, it is expected that tens of thousands of Georgians, including students, will view the exhibition annually. 

The Georgia Commission on the Holocaust is a secular, non-partisan state agency.  The commission provides programming, resources, exhibitions and workshops for teachers, students, law enforcement, the military and religious and community organizations throughout Georgia.