New Orleans — On the sprawling campus of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, the newly-opened Liberation Pavilion may be its most important exhibit hall, detailing the war’s legacy and its lessons.
Some of the last surviving veterans who fought for freedom attended the pavilion’s unveiling last week — as was 82-year-old Eva Nathanson, a Holocaust survivor born in Budapest, Hungary.
“In 1945, somebody had turned my mother and myself in,” Nathanson said. “…And they dragged us to the Danube, and they tied us together and shot us into the Danube.”
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Nathanson’s story is part of an exhibit detailing not just the war’s jubilant end and aftermath, but its grim human toll. More than 400,000 American lives were lost in WWII, and millions massacred in the Holocaust.
This collection can provide insight into thein the Middle East, said museum senior historian Robert Citino.
“People need to know their history,” said Citino. “If you don’t, you can’t really look to either side to know how other people got there. You’re just moving ahead blindly.”
Th exhibit includes relics, painful reminders and heart-wrenching accounts.
CBS News was with Nathanson as she toured the new pavilion, listening for the first time to her own recorded story.
“I mean, I almost have tears in my eyes,” Nathanson said. “It’s difficult to hear yourself, your own story, being said.”
The museum hopes narratives like Nathanson’s will guide leaders of the future.
“I feel I have to do it,” said Nathanson. “Not for myself, but for my children, my grandchildren, and for future generations.”
War’s lasting legacies, on display amid a backdrop of conflict today, and a never-ending battle for freedom.
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