He escaped Germany and helped liberate concentration camps. 75 years later, his niece shares his story.


LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Sara Peterson’s uncle Joe Levy fled Germany before the Holocaust, leaving behind everything but a few heirlooms.

“I guess they saw the handwriting on the wall,” said Peterson.

Her uncle’s journey came full circle years later when he joined the US Army as a translator during World War II and helped liberate Auschwitz.

“Isn’t that amazing,” she said. “Most of us can barely tolerate the films on TV, but to be there as a Jew, as a German in person, I can’t even imagine. I can’t even imagine.”

That was 75 years ago today.

“What always struck me about that was his incredible courage and determination to try and right some wrongs.”

Brian Crim teaches the holocaust at the University of Lynchburg. He says with nationalism on the rise globally, it’s crucial to remember the Holocaust to prevent similar horrors.

“Not just the event, but what led up to it: the ideology, the indifference of a population who was watching, as a bystander watching all these injustices unfold on a daily basis and where voices are not raised to resist it.”

For Peterson, the inherited trauma makes it impossible to forget.

“It’s a part of being a Jew. That consciousness is just, it’s something that most of us carry with us.”

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