Mar 09, 2022 | Humanities and Social Sciences , Featured

Columbia State to Host Zoom Lecture “Survivors and Liberators: Stories of the Concentration Camps”

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Columbia State Community College assistant professor of history Dr. Anna Duch to host Zoom lecture “Survivors and Liberators: Stories of the Concentration Camps” on March 23 at 4 p.m.

“I went into my research as a historian that was willing to accept some very ugly information,” Duch said. “In general, when people do genealogical research, they want to be related to a famous person or a founding father; they don’t expect to kick a hornet’s nest.”

Through her personal family history, Duch will discuss concentration camps and how World War II, which took place from 1939 until 1945, changed the lives of two Ukrainian laborers and an Irish boy from Queens, New York. She wishes to combat Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism in a way that people can empathize with. 

“Survivors and Liberators is ultimately about what families don’t talk about,” Duch said. “My grandfather who liberated Dachau never told my mother he did that; all he said was that he fought in Italy, fought in Germany, and that he saw a part of Germany that was pretty, but the smell of war never left him.  It wasn’t until recently that we figured out that he was referring to the scent of death, of medical experiments, of burning from Dachau.  In the same way, my Ukrainian grandparents were mostly mute about their life before the war – because everyone else ended up dead or stuck behind the Iron Curtain.  They suffered in concentration camps as forced laborers – this isn’t the type of story you tell your child at bedtime.”

Using genealogical research, Duch will trace the path of one grandfather as an 'old' enlistee into World War II and the invasion of Salerno. Through the Arolsen Archives, she also presents evidence of the pre-war lives of her Ukrainian grandparents, who were kidnapped and put to forced labor in German concentration camps. 

“A person must be willing to accept any outcome of their research, even if it destroys some sacred family mythos or changes the narrative of a person’s life,” Duch said about her research. “If they aren’t willing to find skeletons, then they should not go digging.”

The lecture will take place on March 23 at 4 p.m. via Zoom. Participants should preregister at