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Oral Histories: Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust

Saul Sorrin. Saul Sorrin.
Saul Sorrin

Name: Saul Sorrin (1919 – 1995)

Birth Place: New York City

Arrived in Wisconsin: 1962, Milwaukee

These people were survivors, and it took a good deal to survive.

— Saul Sorrin

Map of survivor's journey in Europe.

Biography

Saul Sorrin was an American witness to the Holocaust. He aided survivors at displaced persons camps in Germany as an administrator from 1945 to 1950. Saul was born on July 6, 1919, in New York City, where he attended the City College of New York.

In 1940, he applied for a position with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). At the end of 1945, Saul was sent to Neu Freimann Siedlung, a displaced persons camp near Munich, Germany, to help Holocaust survivors. In 1946, he hosted General Dwight D. Eisenhower on an inspection tour of Neu Freimann. At Eisenhower's recommendation, Saul was appointed permanent area director at the Wolf-Ratshausen camp in Bad Kissingen. He served there until March 1950.

Saul became deeply committed to the survivors he was helping. He ignored many illegal actions, violated countless rules and regulations, and helped refugees alter their documents to sidestep a variety of restrictions. Saul also aided those who wanted to immigrate illegally to countries with quotas. He even permitted refugees to hold secret military training for the newly formed state of Israel.

Saul helped set up cultural institutions in the displaced persons camps he supervised. He began schools and synagogues and organized sporting events and entertainment. He was also able to bring in famous performers.

After the war, Saul returned to the U.S. He married, settled in Milwaukee, and became executive director of the Milwaukee Jewish Council. Saul died in 1995.

Audio and Transcript Information

Below are the highlights of each tape. They do not list all topics discussed. Recordings of only one tape side are marked: (no Side 2). Documents may be printed or downloaded at no cost. See Rights and Permissions


Listen to Saul's testimony and view transcript

Tape 1, Side 1
  • Saul's family background and education
  • Saul's United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration appointment and transfer to Munich
  • Conditions at Neu Freimann
  • Relations among the survivors at Neu Freimann
Download Audio (MP3, 30 minutes, 26.9 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 463 KB)
Tape 1, Side 2
  • Restrictions on immigration to Israel; Saul's attempts to circumvent them
  • Secret military training for the new state of Israel
  • Former ghetto police and concentration camp guards at Neu Freimann
  • The birth of the state of Israel
Download Audio (MP3, 29 minutes, 26.1 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 463 KB)
Tape 2, Side 1
  • Religious and cultural life, schools and synagogues in displaced persons camps
  • Relations between refugee relief organizations
  • Jewish war orphans
  • General Dwight D. Eisenhower visit, 1946
Download Audio (MP3, 29 minutes, 25.2 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 463 KB)
Tape 2, Side 2
  • Refugee-created culture, such as newspapers and nightclubs
  • Previous uses of displaced persons camps
  • Survivors' relationships with German civilians and Gentiles
  • The transition into civil society in Europe and Israel
Download Audio (MP3, 29 minutes, 24.4 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 463 KB)
Tape 3, Side 1
  • Saul's promotion to area director
  • Refugees who stayed in Germany
  • Black market in the displaced persons camps
  • Hasidim and other special groups in the camps
Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 5.3 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 463 KB)
Tape 3, Side 2
  • American entertainers visit displaced persons camps
  • Excitement surrounding the first flights available to Israel
  • Comparing Jewish refugees with post-Vietnam Asian refugees in the U.S.
Download Audio (MP3, 29 minutes, 24.9 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 463 KB)
Tape 4, Side 1 (no Side 2)
  • Mental health issues and suicides among Holocaust survivors
  • Humor in displaced persons camps
  • Saul's reflections on the production of The Search, a 1948 film about war orphans
  • How working in displaced persons camps affected Saul's later life
Download Audio (MP3, 11 minutes, 13.8 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 463 KB)
Tape 5, Side 1
  • Discussing the photographs Saul preserved
  • Depression among survivors in displaced persons camps
  • Male survivors obsession with maintaining physical fitness
  • The character of the Underground fighters and its supporters
Download Audio (MP3, 29 minutes, 25.6 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 463 KB)
Tape 5, Side 2
  • More discussion while looking at photographs
  • More on General Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1946 visit
  • Falsifying papers to help survivors
Download Audio (MP3, 26 minutes, 23.5 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 463 KB)
Tape 6, Side 1 (no Side 2)
  • Saul's promotion and the UNRAA bureaucracy
  • Riots in displaced persons camps
  • Paramilitary training in displaced persons camps
  • Jewish defectors from the Soviet army join displaced persons camps
Download Audio (MP3, 19 minutes, 17.0 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 463 KB)

About the Interview Process

  • The interview was conducted by archivist Jean Loeb Lettofsky on February 13 and 19, 1980, at Saul's office. The two sessions lasted three-and-a-half hours each.

    Saul's discussion of his photographs offers a unique perspective within the Oral Histories: Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust collection. He was not a survivor, but lived and worked intimately with them for several years. His unusually rich collection of postwar photographs prompted many memories shared on Tape 5.


Audio and Transcript Details

  • Interview Dates: Feb 13, 1980; Feb 19, 1980
  • Interview Location: Sorrin's office, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Interviewer: Archivist Jean Loeb Lettofsky
  • Original Sound Recording Format: 6 qty. 60-minute audio cassette tapes
  • Length of Interviews: 2 interviews, total approximately 7 hours
  • Transcript Length: 96 pages
  • Rights and Permissions: Any document may be printed or downloaded to a computer or portable device at no cost for nonprofit educational use by teachers, students and researchers. Nothing may be reproduced in any format for commercial purposes without prior permission.

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