An interview with Deborah Levine
by Ellie Green
Deborah Levine was born into one of the only Jewish families in British Bermuda. She has since immigrated to the U.S., and now resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Deborah is an award-winning author who has written extensively on religion and diversity including, Religious Diversity at Work and Teaching Curious Christians about Judaism. And now, she brings us her historical memoir The Liberator’s Daughter, which details her family history to the present day and, specifically, the life of her father – a Jewish U.S. Army Military Intelligence Officer in the Second World War.
“Our history was something he didn’t want anyone else to forget.” – Deborah Levine
Aaron Levine witnessed some of the worst atrocities committed in the 20th century. And he personally interrogated those responsible. After the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich in 1945, Levine was tasked with liberating concentration camps as part of the Allied war effort and interviewing Nazi prisoners of war.
Levine was prepared, having been trained in interrogation in Fort Ritchie. But the undertaking was haunting. The letters he wrote home to his wife depict the atrocities he found in Germany, including the ‘stench of bodies piled up’ in Nordhausen-Dora (the concentration camp liberated by U.S. Troops in April 1945) and his encounters with people in Germany, many of whom ‘found more fault with Hitler for having lost the war’.
Levine’s daughter recalls conversations with her father. “When I as a child asked him, ‘Well Daddy, did you kill anybody during the war’ he said ‘No, but I did slap somebody once….it was a Nazi prisoner and all he said to me was, ‘The only mistake Hitler made was not killing more Jews’.”
For most of her life, Deborah Levine was unaware of the true extent of her father’s activities in WWII. But when her father was in his 70’s, he presented Deborah with a box of letters – the truth-telling letters he had written to his wife during his time in Europe. It is these letters that Deborah recently complied into her book, ‘The Liberator’s Daughter’. Designed to educate people on both the importance of remembering the Holocaust as an atrocity against the Jewish people, and ‘as a universal lesson’ that such horrors can occur anywhere, at any time, Deborah Levine painfully reminds people that the Holocaust occurred in a ‘cultured, educated society. We are not in America immune to similar things happening.’
“The timing of this book was key to me.” notes Deborah. “I feel that we were are at a cross road politically, globally and nationally where the reminder of this history is absolutely required for moving forward logically and successfully”
In promoting her book and speaking out for the continued remembrance of the Holocaust, Deborah has encountered some who deny the very existence of the event. Deborah recalls an encounter with David Irving (an infamous pseudo-historian Holocaust-denier) at a book launch as ‘a wake-up call to me that these conspiracy theories and the holocaust denial movement was appealing across many sectors of the public’. For Deborah, even though only 70 years have passed since the world truly uncovered what was happening in the concentration camps, ‘a lot of it has been forgotten’.
“One of my intentions of this book was that it be both inspirational but also educational.”
Aaron Levine went on to dedicate much of his life to Jewish causes and ‘to the American Jewish archives so that our history would not be lost’. His stories, as present through his letters and the vision of his daughter, provide insight into a man who was intensely proud of his Judaism and was also dedicated to his job in the military. The letters he wrote are a lasting legacy of one man’s experience as a liberator. As such, they are must read for anyone wishing to educate themselves about the Holocaust.
Deborah Levine has worked tirelessly to support religious diversity both within communities and in the work place. In addition to her other publications, she is also the author of Religious Diversity in our Public Schools.
‘The Liberators Daughter’ by Deborah Levine is available for purchase on Amazon.