By Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries
In her 1957 book “All But My Life,” Holocaust survivor and human rights activist Gerda Weissmann Klein wrote, “The part of my formative years over which fate cast such a large shadow imposes an enormous burden and is not fully sorted out even now. No manual for survival was ever handed to me, nor were any self‑help books available. Yet somehow I made my way, grappling with feelings that would let me reconcile difficult memories with hope for the future, and balancing pain with joy, death with life, loss with gain, tragedy with happiness.”
Klein’s book and some 400 others are part of a personal collection of Holocaust literature recently donated to WSU by alumnus Lawrence Seeborg (’62 Economics). For 50 years, Seeborg sought histories and first‑person accounts from Jewish survivors to build his collection.
“Every story is different,” he said. “There was a lot of luck involved in who survived the camps, but also a lot of determination. I’ve always been interested in the human nature aspects of the Holocaust and how people adapt to very difficult circumstances. I also had a great deal of empathy for the survivors’ plight.”
In honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, WSU Libraries has created an exhibit, “Voices from the Holocaust: Personal Narratives in the Seeborg Holocaust Collection,” in the Terrell Library exhibit case. The exhibit runs through Feb. 3.
Learning from Holocaust survivors
Seeborg began collecting Holocaust literature after seeing the movie version of “The Diary of Anne Frank” in 1959. Then in 1983, he attended the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in Washington, D.C., where he met several survivors in person. Seeborg also learned of plans to build the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The museum was completed in 1993, and Seeborg attended the opening.
“The museum’s bookstore was an important source for books being added to my collection,” he said.
Several years later, Seeborg read Serge Klarsfeld’s book “French Children of the Holocaust,” published in 1996. The book contains the names and photographs of more than 2,500 French children who died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.
“This book reinforced my efforts to collect first‑person accounts about the Holocaust,” Seeborg said. “It is difficult to look at the hundreds of French children in this book who were transported to their deaths by the Nazis in World War II.”
Collection donated in father’s honor
Seeborg said he donated the collection to his alma mater in honor of his father, Edward. It also adds to WSU Libraries’ existing collection of Holocaust materials; most of Seeborg’s books are new to the Libraries.
“I’ve had these books in my collection 30 to 40 years,” he said. “These are people talking to me. I wanted these books to be kept together. There is a lot of satisfaction knowing that they will be.”
Among the titles Seeborg considers noteworthy is Klein’s “All But My Life.” In it, Klein details the loss of her parents and brother, her own incarceration in a series of labor camps, and the 350‑mile death march she survived before being liberated at the end of the war. Of the 4,000 women forced to march by the Nazis, only 150 lived.
“This is an important book in the literature of the Holocaust,” Seeborg said. “Klein devoted her life to educating others about the Holocaust when she resettled in the United States after World War II.”