Tireless Lodz, Poland researcher Roni Seibel Liebowitz of New York has been involved for several years in the story of Vernon Tott, his role in the Ahlem Camp's liberation and his important photos. I was privileged to work with Roni on a Jerusalem Post story about Tott and his quest to find Ahlem survivors - he eventually found 30 of them - despite his own failing health.
The late Vernon Tott (deceased 2005) of Sioux City, Iowa, was with the U.S. infantry liberating Ahlem Labor Camp in Hannover, Germany. Most male prisoners (men and boys) were from the Lodz Ghetto, a town of particular interest to Liebowitz, who handles the Lodz ShtetLinks , Lodz Area Research Group (LARG) and Belchatow ShtetLink.
The 18 images Tott took during liberation are the only ones known to exist of that event. The photos sat in a shoebox on a basement shelf until 1995, when an Ahlem survivor contacted Tott via an Army newsletter. From this chance meeting, Tott was inspired to locate and reunite as many Ahlem camp survivors as possible.
In May 2007, the documentary, "The Angel of Ahlem," was screened at Lincoln Center. Guest speaker Dr. Henry Kissinger was a correspondent with the 84th infantry and visited Ahlem following liberation. His comments and the NPR broadcast are on the site below. A group of Ahlem survivors also attended.
National Public Radio aired an interview Tuesday morning with members of the Tott family; it is posted here. See a narrated slideshow of Ahlem survivor Ben Sieradzki's family album, hear other survivors and view several related stories.
NPR correspondent Susan Stamberg spoke with Tott's family and Ahlem survivors in Sioux City during the premiere week.