Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Beyond State Borders: Preserving the story of a Holocaust survivor

By Ellen Robison

Our collections at the Tennessee State Library and Archives are a treasure trove of unexpected finds. The Library and Archives houses documents from all corners of the world that have found a home within our walls. These items are a reminder of Tennessee’s presence in the world and how the influence of her people can stretch beyond state borders. One example comes from a seemingly simple letter by Kurt Anspacher dated Nov. 10, 1945, found in the Sadie Warner Frazer Papers. This unassuming letter recounts a detailed story of trauma and adversity in the life of a 20-year-old German Jew who survived 10 different Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

Transportation map of Germany. 1938, Sadie Warner Frazer Papers. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Anspacher was born on May 1, 1925, in the small village of Achim, near Bremen, Germany. He and 12 family members were arrested on Nov. 17, 1941 and taken to a ghetto in Minsk, Russia (present-day Belarus). By July of 1942, only five people in his family remained alive. On Sept. 1943, Anspacher was taken to the first of 10 concentration camps and separated from his last living relative. He would never see any of his family again. Over the next 20 months, Anspacher was forced to work in the factories and mines at camps across Russia, Poland, Austria and Germany. His final imprisonment was at the dreaded Dachau concentration camp.

Pages 1 and 2 of letter from Kurt Anspacher regarding his Holocaust experience. Nov. 10, 1945, Sadie Warner Frazer Papers. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

After his arrival at Dachau on March 16, 1945, Anspacher fell deathly ill with typhus, which was running rampant through the camp. In his letter he states, “On March 18 I collapsed and was with high fever and unconscious…. After four Days the fever subsided without medication. The Russian Nurse, a great anti-semite, had geiven [sic] me no tablets… because he saw marked on my plate-name “Jew” with a question mark.” One month later, Anspacher was among the 17,000 Dachau prisoners forced to march more than 40 miles across the snowy countryside of Germany. Thousands died during the journey. They marched for three days before the German guards abandoned the remaining 800 prisoners in the mountains near Tegernsee. In his letter, Anspacher states: “I must have slpet [sic] there almost four days until May 3... The Americans had occupied the village on May 1. Thus I was liberated on May 1, my birthday.”

Pages 3 of letter from Kurt Anspacher regarding his Holocaust experience. November 10, 1945, Sadie Warner Frazer Papers. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Five days after Anspacher awoke to his liberation by the American troops, Germany surrendered and the war in Europe was officially over, but the challenges in his life would continue. He was one of thousands of people who had lost their homes and families. He spent several weeks in two displaced persons camps before returning to Achim. Even after the war in Germany had ended, Nazi followers were still causing havoc in the village. He wrote: “The Nazis are still carrying on as they will…. Had twenty Nazis in Achim arrested by the F.S.S. but the Military Government released them immediately.”

Page 4 of letter from Kurt Anspacher regarding his Holocaust experience. November 10, 1945, Sadie Warner Frazer Papers. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

How did a letter from a Holocaust survivor find its way to the Library and Archives? It is not exactly clear, but Anspacher may have been connected to the family of George Preston Frazer, who served as an officer in the 2nd Armored Division. The 2nd Armored Division participated in battles across Germany and his unit remained for some time as occupation troops after war’s end. Frazer wrote to his family: “…they have told us that there are between 7 and 8 million people in Germany who don’t belong there and we are to help get them into camps and homes as soon as possible.” Or maybe Anspacher's connection was through Jean Anderson, a close friend of the Frazer family who served in the Red Cross’s Civilian War Relief, often within combat zones in western Europe. In one letter to the Frazer family, she states, “We work… on the problems of the many thousands of ‘displaced persons,’ refugees of every nationality under the sun...”

Through research of immigration records, the Library and Archives staff discovered the Anspacher family attempted to leave Germany in 1941. A woman in New York, who had already emigrated from Germany earlier in the war, provided money as a depositor for the family’s travel expenses in March of that year. However, one year later she was refunded the deposit because it had not been used. Naturalization records show Anspacher immigrated to the United States only a few years after writing his letter. He spent time in New York City and Nashville before settling in Chicago under the name of Curt Parker. In 1996 he was interviewed by the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, an organization founded by Steven Spielberg to preserve the stories of Holocaust survivors. Anspacher died in 2011, but the unique story of his life and perseverance lives on halfway around the world here at the Library and Archives.

For more information on interviews conducted by the Shoah Foundation, visit http://sfi.usc.edu/.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Library and Archives Debuts David Franklin Brock Korean War Photograph Collection

As Veterans Day approaches, the Tennessee State Library and Archives has launched a new digital collection featuring the Korean War images of David Franklin Brock. Brock was a 20-year-old Van Buren County farm boy when he reported for the draft in Nashville in January 1952. He was soon deployed to Korea, where he used photographs to chronicle adventures during his military experience. To view the new collection, go to: http://bit.ly/BrockKoreanWar

David Franklin Brock pictured in 1953 with other soldiers in the 2nd Infantry Division's 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion.

The new online exhibit is part of the Tennessee Virtual Archives (TeVA). It features 120 images and an interactive story map, tracking Brock’s progress from combat engineer training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, to his time with the famed Second “Indianhead” Infantry Division in the vicinity of the Iron Triangle and the 38th parallel in Korea.

“This digital collection donated by Mr. Brock will help the Library and Archives highlight a war often described as ‘forgotten,’” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “I hope that veterans of the Korean War, like so many other veterans, experience the gratitude and honor owed to them for their service to our country and to all Americans.”

Brock’s photos capture the heartbreak of leaving behind a sweetheart and the challenge of mastering military engineer techniques and infantry weaponry. The photos document the camaraderie of soldiers during the first American war with racially integrated units and their interactions with Republic of Korea soldiers in the squad tents of the Second Division.

Brock’s pride in serving as a “tomahawk warrior” is evident in these photos as well. His unit built roads, bridges and bunkers near the front while often under enemy fire. As a demolitions specialist, Brock detonated explosives and laid and cleared mines. He also served as an infantry soldier when needed.

Also a part of this online collection is a transcript of an oral history recording Brock’s Korean War experiences that he contributed to the Library and Archives’ ongoing commemoration project “Tennessee Remembers,” which honors the men and women who served in Korea and Vietnam by preserving the history of their wartime experiences. The goal of this project is to collect original documents, photographs and memorabilia related to the in-country experiences of these veterans to be preserved for future generations and made accessible for research and educational purposes. As a part of “Tennessee Remembers,” the Library and Archives has developed questionnaires for Korean War and Vietnam War veterans that give them the opportunity to document and preserve their war experiences for future generations.

To view more collections available on the Tennessee Virtual Archive, go to: http://teva.contentdm.oclc.org/

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Friday, November 11, 2016

Library and Archives Restores Alvin C. York Map in Time for Veterans Day

Alvin C. York became Tennessee's most decorated World War I veteran for his heroism fighting the Germans in France's Argonne Forest. Now a map of the forest apparently used by York will be on display this weekend after a stop at the Tennessee State Library and Archives for some restoration work.

After returning from the war, York briefly lived in a house on his family's property while he built a bigger home in what is now Sgt. Alvin C. York State Park in Pall Mall. When a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency employee bought the smaller house, he discovered the map among a bunch of papers inside that belonged to York.

Travis Stover, the park's manager, said the map had been forgotten by York's descendants.

"No one had ever mentioned that document to me," Stover said. "The York family may not have even known it was there."

The map appears similar to the type issued to soldiers in the field. While it's not possible to say for certain that York had the map with him while he was in combat, it seems likely that he did.

"All the signs point to that," said Hobart Akin, cultural resources and exhibits specialist for Tennessee State Parks. "All the signs point to it being overseas with the guys who were in the fight."

The map is dated just a couple of months before the battle where York earned acclaim for taking out a German machine gun nest.

Park officials sent the map to the Library and Archives for some conservation work. That was recently completed and a digital copy of the map was made for the Library and Archives' collection.

The map was returned to Sgt. Alvin C. York State Park, where it will be on display this weekend as part of the park's Veterans Day celebration. Akin said it will be displayed on special occasions. The rest of the time, it will be stored in a climate-controlled environment. A copy of the map will be on permanent display at the park, Akin said.

"It's very fitting that Alvin C. York is being honored this Veterans Day," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "I'm proud that our staff at the Library and Archives was able to assist in conserving this important document so people can see it when they visit the park. Rare finds like this map help bring our state's history to life."

The park will be open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Other activities planned to commemorate Veterans Day will include flyovers by World War I vintage aircraft, a re-enactment of trench warfare and a game of football played with World War I era rules.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Workshop to Provide Tips on Writing a Family History

The Thanksgiving holidays are a time when many people focus on spending time with family. Beyond bonding around the dinner table, there's another way to strengthen those ties - by writing a family history book.

At the next Tennessee State Library and Archives' "Workshop Series" presentation, personal historian Deborah Wilbrink will give participants a primer on how to get started with that. She'll describe how to assemble family tree information, family tales and photographs into bound volumes that can be shared for generations.

Wilbrink is encouraging each attendee to bring a photograph or family heirloom as a starting point.

The workshop, titled "Time to Tell: Write Your Family History," will be held Nov. 26 from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. in the Library and Archives auditorium. After the workshop, staff will be on hand to help participants trace their families through research. The Library and Archives building is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, just west of the Tennessee State Capitol building in downtown Nashville. Free parking is available around the building.

"There are so many Tennesseans who devote their time and energy to genealogical research," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "Producing a book is a great way to share the findings of that research with family members and non-family members alike. I encourage people to put those Thanksgiving leftovers back in the fridge long enough to visit us for this informative workshop."

Although the workshop is free and open to the public, reservations are required because of the auditorium's limited seating capacity. To make a reservation, please go to: https://familyhistorydaytsla.eventbrite.com

Wilbrink is a professional personal historian who has published more than 20 books for families and individuals through her company, Perfect Memoirs. Her career highlights include working with CNN, ghostwriting for a U.S. senator, commercial video scripting and managing four historic cemeteries. Teaching and writing have kept Wilbrink busy since moving to Nashville in 2003. She is a member of the National Association of Personal Historians, the Tennessee and Middle Tennessee genealogical societies, and the Sarah Polk chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution. Now she focuses on helping others across the country save their life stories for families and publication and teaches memoir-writing classes.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State