George Will

WASHINGTON--Among the radiating effects of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which opened here along the Mall 10 years ago, is the story of how Harry re-met Hanne. The friendship of Harry Ettlinger, now 77, and Hanne Hirsch, now 78, was interrupted for 64 years by war and genocide.

It began when he lived on the second floor and she on the fourth floor of an apartment building in Karlsruhe, Germany, where they attended the same school. The friendship was renewed last spring, thanks to two New Jersey teenagers, Jennifer Bernardes, of an immigrant family from Brazil, and Leonie Barrett, of an immigrant family from Jamaica. Leonie's sister is currently serving in the Persian Gulf.

Harry, a Holocaust survivor, participates in New Jersey's ``Adopt a Survivor'' program that brings middle and high school students to the museum. Each student studies a survivor's personal history and commits to tell his or her story in 2045, the 100th anniversary of the liberation of the death camps.

Museum visitors are issued identity cards recounting the history of someone who was swept up in the Holocaust whirlwind. Jennifer and Leonie noticed that one card detailed the life of a girl from Karlsruhe. Harry recognized Hanne Hirsch as the girl from the fourth floor. He had not known her fate. But when he looked her up in the museum's registry of survivors, he found that her good fortune was to be sheltered by the good people of the French Huguenot village of Le Chambon, in the south of France near Lyon. Hanne Hirsch Liebmann lives in New York with her husband Max, 81.

Hanne's father and then her widowed mother ran a photography shop in Karlsruhe until Nazi anti-Jewish laws put them out of business in 1938. Hanne was 16 in 1940 when she was deported to a camp in Vichy France. In the camp she met Max Liebmann, then 19.

He got out of the camp and was sheltered illegally in Le Chambon until he could get into Switzerland. She received live-saving help from the villagers, whose long memories of the persecution of Huguenots fueled their resistance to German and Vichy crimes.

Jews still in the camp on Aug. 1, 1942, were destined for Auschwitz. Hanne was legally removed to the village shortly before that, and in February 1943 she followed Max to Switzerland. They married and in 1948 came to America.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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