Fort Worth History Center hosts ‘American Witnesses’
Photo: Courtesy Anna Salton Eisen
Westlake citizen Anna Salton Eisen stands next to a panel of the “American Witnesses” Holocaust exhibit at the Fort Worth History Center. Eisen was surprised to learn that the exhibit featured her late father, George Salton (1928-2016), a Holocaust survivor born Lucjan Salzman in Poland. Eisen helped her father write a memoir, which she is holding in the photo.

By Michael Sudhalter

In honoring International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Fort Worth History Center partnered with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for the “American Witnesses” exhibit, which runs through Saturday, Feb. 24.

The exhibit largely focuses on the experience of United States Army soldiers and medical personnel who liberated the Nazi concentration camps in the spring of 1945.

The exhibit has 18 panels throughout the building, each of which was produced by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The number 18 was a coincidence, according to Linda Barrett, manager/archivist for the Fort Worth History Center, which is a division of the city’s library system. The reason? There are 18 columns in the south Fort Worth building, located at 501 East Bolt St. near the junction of Interstate 35 West and Interstate 20.

Westlake citizen Anna Salton Eisen recently made the nearly 60-mile round trip from her northwest Tarrant County home to visit the exhibit. Most of the panels featured U.S. Army personnel, with only a few featuring Holocaust survivors.

In the rarest of coincidences, one of the panels featured Eisen’s late father, George Salton (1928-2016), a Holocaust survivor who was born Lucjan Salzman in Poland. Those featured in the exhibit were selected randomly and did not have ties to Fort Worth or Texas.

“There were thousands and thousands of images, so (it’s amazing) that they’d be there out of 18 panels,” Barrett said.

Salton survived 10 different concentration camps and was liberated by the U.S. Army at the Wobbelin concentration camp.

Upon immigrating to the U.S., Salton joined the U.S. Army, earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Syracuse University and eventually became director of defense communications at the Pentagon.

Salton and his wife, Ruth, were married for 63 years when he died. They had three children, including Eisen, whom he worked with on his book, “The 23rd Psalm: A Holocaust Memoir.”

Photo: Michael Sudhalter
Fort Worth History Center Manager/Archivist Linda Barrett stands next to a panel of the “American Witnesses” Holocaust exhibit located in south Fort Worth.

She later wrote “A Pillar of Salt: A Daughter’s Life in The Shadow of the Holocaust” with her son, Aaron Eisen.

Eisen, a Holocaust educator who moved to Tarrant County from Washington, D.C., in 1985, called the exhibit “very powerful.”

“Dad never really talked about the Holocaust when I was growing up,” Eisen said. “When I was 30, I asked him about it. That led to the first of several trips to Poland.”

Eisen, who served as the first president of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, has traveled to several states to speak about the Holocaust. Closer to home, she’s provided Holocaust education in Carroll ISD in Southlake.

“It’s encouraging that Texas and more than 20 other states have a mandate for Holocaust education,” Eisen said. “The lack of awareness about the Holocaust is alarming.”

Eisen points to the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel as proof that “the lessons of the Holocaust have come to bear.”

The current exhibit has received about 30 visitors, half of whom visited on the opening night of Jan. 27. That night, the History Center screened an eight-minute film, followed by a discussion.

“I was no longer learning about the Holocaust in a Jewish echo chamber,” said Hollace Weiner, director of the Fort Worth Jewish Archives. “The voices in the exhibit are from Catholic and Protestant soldiers, from nurses in the field and military chaplains candidly describing their horror at the inhumanity.”

One of the attendees traveled from Dallas. Another was a Native American man who recently discovered some Jewish lineage in his family.

One of the first panels read, “In spring 1945, men and women serving in the U.S. Army were among the first Americans to encounter evidence of Nazi atrocities. See what soldiers and Holocaust survivors witnessed and hear their testimonies.”

There was understandably a warning for “graphic footage/content that may not be suitable for everyone.” Guests are welcome to listen to an audio portion of the exhibit.

William A. Scott III was a US soldier in the 183rd Combat Engineer Battalion, a segregated African-American unit. He was responsible for photographing and documenting the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Scott (1923-1992) spent the rest of his life educating others about the horrors of the Holocaust and was appointed to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council by President George H.W. Bush.

Lieutenant Margaret House of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps 91st Evacuation Hospital wrote the following in a letter home:

“I saw the bodies. I know it is all true. Every word I write here. Yet there are those who will still say ‘It’s another one of those stories, take it with a grain of salt.’ Well, I’m sending some pictures to my father that were taken by a friend of mine as I stood by. Go look at them.”

Lieutenant Beatrice Wachter of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps 51st Field Hospital summed up the sentiment of many of her fellow U.S. Army nurses and soldiers after they liberated the concentration camps. She wrote:

“I have seen the most horrible sights that I hope I will never see again as long as I live.”

The History Center promoted the exhibit through social media and newsletters.

Barrett, a 10-year veteran of the Fort Worth Library system, plans to continue educating the community about the Holocaust. She’s already communicating with Eisen about collaborating for a future exhibit or program as early as next winter.

“We’re reminding people of the horrors of what happened and how it ties to our community,” Barrett said. “It’s important for us to be aware of our history (even though) it’s difficult to process.”

  • Post category:News
  • Post comments:0 Comments

Leave a Reply