Iowa Liberators Witness the Holocaust

The Iowa Jewish Historical Society (IJHS) is marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe) by introducing a new, six-part series: Iowa Liberators Witness the Holocaust. VE Day commemorates the acceptance by the Allied forces of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces. The end of the war included the liberation of the concentration camps the Germans operated during the war.

This series features materials from the Iowa Jewish Historical Society (IJHS) oral history collection. Susan Jellinger, Oral History Assistant, mined this collection to select segments from several WWII veterans and one WHO Radio farm reporter who became a war correspondent. The five veterans featured are: William Barton, Dean Lettington, Ronald “Uby” Rabinovitz, Manny Soodhalter, and Alfred Wiser. The reporter who witnessed, wrote, and photographed what he saw was Herb Plambeck.

Ronald Ruvin “Uby” Rabinovitz

Ronald Ruvin (Uby) Rabinovitz was a life-long Iowan, mainly in the Des Moines area, active in community organizations, and a 50-year member of Beth El Jacob Synagogue. He graduated from North High School, enrolled at the University of Iowa, and graduated from Drake University after his military service.  He served in the U.S. Army 8th Infantry Division fighting as a reconnaissance scout during the Battle of the Bulge. Rabinovitz became a Holocaust liberator when the 8thDivision Pathfinders entered Woebbelin Concentration Camp on April 28, 1945. Later, he also visited a Displaced Persons camp for children and orphans, and he helped with basic level interrogations of German prisoners. When he got back to Des Moines, Rabinowitz married Rosita Berdowsky and worked for his family’s business, Iowa Glove & Notions. Later he operated Mid-American Homes and ended his career working at Principal Financial for 20 years.  This program includes two segments where he talks about his experiences liberating Woebbelin.

William C. Barton

The first segment is on William Barton. Subsequent segments will be posted to the IJHS website in the coming weeks leading up to the 76th anniversary of D-Day, June 6.

Dean Lettington

Dean Lettington is interviewed by Jordan Leslie Bookey in this second installment of the IJHS series, Iowa Liberators Witness the Holocaust. Two segments from the original 1995 interview are highlighted and augmented with some biographical information and news articles about him, plus information about the Iowa Jewish Historical Society. Mr. Lettington became passionate about sharing his military experiences with school and community groups.

Manny Soodhalter

Manuel “Manny” Soodhalter was born in Des Moines, Iowa on Feb, 17 1916 to Morris and Dora Soodhalter. He died in Bettendorf, Iowa on June 1, 2008.  In between those dates he lived a full life:  a husband to Esther until her death in 2000; a father to Deborah; an Army veteran of the 5th  Corps Engineers Section planning D-Day; a Liberator while with the 29th Division’s 116th Combat Team; and a business man who owned and operated Debs Drive In, a popular Quad Cities’ eatery.  He also acted as an educator who spoke about his WWII experiences in interviews and educational programs throughout his adult life.

In this, the third program of the six-part Iowa Jewish Historical Society series Iowa Liberators Witness the Holocaust, Manny is one of two Jewish Veterans and Liberators who tells about his personal experiences during WWII.  The other is Ronald “Uby” Rabinowitz. 

This program features excerpts from Soodhalter’s 1994 self-recorded audio account about his time in the Army that are just a small portion of his audio memoir.  

Please Note:  Manny’s description of his experiences liberating Buchenwald are very graphic but describe what was really happening at the camp and need to be preserved and heard so we never forget.

To hear all of his recordings, contact the Iowa Jewish Historical Society.