VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Combat Direction Systems Activity (CDSA) Dam Neck commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day by hosting guest speakers from the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, April 24.
Their presentation called “What We Carry” focused on the life of former Hampton Roads resident Hanns Loewenbach, who passed away in 2012 but escaped the holocaust through athleticism, luck and ingenuity.
Lynn Woods and Wendy Auerbach told Loewenbach’s story in words, video clips and in memorabilia that the audience could see and touch. Hanns’ father had served in the German Army in WWI and was a successful businessman in Berlin when Adolf Hitler came to power. When the elder Loewenbach refused to sell his business to his non-Jewish partners, he was sent to Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps. His family was able to procure his eventual release but needed to continue their escape of the Holocaust.
Hanns, an Olympic-hopeful swimmer who was not permitted to try out for the German team in the 1936 Berlin Olympics due to being Jewish, tried to escape Germany by swimming to Denmark in frigid water wearing a business suit. He had to return to Germany by swimming back but eventually was able to flee to Italy when, by chance, an old school friend recognized him and made him a passport. “The friend was in the SS but helped Hanns because Loewenbach had once gone to the guard’s aid when the future Nazi had been bullied in school,” said Auerbach.
Hanns’ ingenuity led him to work with Jewish organizations in Italy and he bought passage for his parents and himself to Shanghai, China, for the duration of the war. Hanns eventually moved to the United States, first in San Francisco, then New York City and Hampton Roads, raising three children and five grandchildren. “He spoke to thousands of people about his experiences, up to ten days before his death at age ninety-six,” said Woods.
Mary Powell, a Navy civilian at CDSA, organized the talk and said, “I first read about this presentation in doing research of local Holocaust survivors for our Diversity committee observance schedule. In reading ‘What We Carry’ I thought it would be interesting and beneficial for the command’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, since nothing of this nature had been presented in the past. In choosing Hann's story I thought it would resonate with our staff and the two presenters educated us all on just a part of what Holocaust survivors went through.”
CDSA Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Andy Hoffman, added, “Anyone who hears the story of someone like Hanns Loewenbach and the challenges he faced in Germany in the 1930s would be inspired. I think it makes us all remember how fortunate we are as Americans but at the same time, it reminds us that if we see something, we must say something. Hanns dedicated many years of his life to telling his story and reminding us that there can be no bystanders.”
Hanns Loewenbach’s often-quoted statement still rings true: “Evil does not need your help, just your indifference.” For more information on Hanns Loewenbach, visit the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s page at http://jewishva.org/node/749.
CDSA is a Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division command that provides research, development, test and evaluation, analysis, systems engineering, and integration of complex naval systems associated with surface warfare and strategic combat and weapons systems. CDSA’s work is focused on providing engineering, acquisition, and logistical support to Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Special Warfare, Coalition, and Joint Forces.