As part of a project of the Art of Letter Writing, POBA became engaged in cataloging and archiving a collection of nearly 1100 WWII wartime letters – the Schulman Collection – that reveal a remarkable personal romance and an exceptional – but unexpected – window on history that stretches across the US to the Buchenwald camp, other parts of Europe and back. Here, excerpts from the Schulman Collection are available for viewing for the first time.
Starting with a romance that began as teens in the late 1930s, this wartime correspondence between Hy and Sandy Schulman chronicles an amazing record of personal love during difficult wartime circumstances. But fortune revealed another story of historical significance as well: Among the nearly 1100 letters capturing this period, many of these letters also reveal the very personal and direct participation of these regular folks in the important historic events surrounding the liberation and resettlement of Jewish survivors of the concentration camps.
Wounded at the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944, Hy Schulman was removed from front line duty and was assigned to serve as Assistant to the Jewish Chaplain to the US Army, Rabbi Herschel Schachter. In the critical period of Allied victories in the winter 1944-45, Hy Schulman describes how serendipity changed his life and those of countless others, as he joins the Chaplain Corps, serves under Rabbi Schachter, and joins him among the first to enter Buchenwald on April 11, 1945. They tell how Hy assists in the first Jewish religious ceremonies at Buchenwald and other camps, the effect that these services had on camp survivors, how Hy personally assisted in resettling surviving children to Switzerland, and maintained contact with some camp survivors post-war. These letters also tell how Sandy worked on the home front to support the war effort, how she joined millions to mourn the death of FDR two days after Buchenwald was liberated, and how she eagerly awaited the end of the war and Hy’s return home. Between them, these letters reveal an “O Henry” quality of life for a young couple, deeply in love and separated by war, who try to give each other the gift of not causing worry for their spouse, despite the objectively dangerous and worrisome wartime conditions at hand.