Roger Salamon still remembers the words he heard during his army infantry training in March 1945.
"At one point when we were lined up, they said 'Men, look to your left and look to your right. One of the men you see, won't come home once you go over," said Salamon, 85.
"But since we were still in training when the bomb was dropped that led to World War II ending, we were never sent overseas. Even though that bomb took lives, it also saved lives."
Salamon and his wife Davida, who have lived in Flossmoor for 43 years, were given a surprise by their daughter Mara S. Lazar that adds special meaning this Memorial Day weekend.
Lazar provided a photograph of her father in uniform to be featured for a special wall of honor display at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, Ill.
The images of hundreds of Chicagoland men and women are included in a traveling exhibit on display at the museum until June 17. The exhibit, "Ours to Fight For: American Jews in the Second World War," explores and celebrates the achievements of Jewish men and women who were part of the American war effort on and off the battlefield.
In their own voices and through their artifacts, letters, and photographs the men and women in the armed forces, now known as "The Greatest Generation," share the stories of what the war was like for all participants, and for Jews in particular. The traveling exhibit is on loan from the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.
Salamon said he was moved by the memories.
"This exhibit is for anyone who has been in the service and anyone interested in what so many men and women did for this country for everyone's freedom," Salamon said.
Debbie Brenman, of Glenview, Ill., shared a photo of her husband Larry's father, Jerome Brenman, of Gary, who died at age 84 in 2004 and was in the army. She also included a photo of her brother-in-law's father, Dr. Jerry Korn of East Chicago, who died at age 81 in 1997, who served as a doctor in a field hospital during the war.
"This is such an important recognition to always honor these men and women for serving our country," Brenman said.
"I feel like having their photos included with this display serves to keep their memories, and what they stood for, alive for future generations to know about."
According to Arielle Weininger, chief curator of collections and exhibitions for the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, approximately 500,000 Jews served in all branches of the U.S. armed forces during the war and 52,000 were decorated for bravery.
She said "Ours To Fight For" brings to life the actions and feelings of courageous young men and women, along with their discomfort, camaraderie, faith, fear, horror and the deep meaning they found "in getting the job done."
The exhibition features personal quotes, letters, photos, video testimonies and period artifacts and a WW II‐era "Home Front Theater" for visitors to view archival footage of American soldiers liberating Europe.
Weininger said The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Holocaust by honoring the memories of those who were lost and by teaching universal lessons that combat hatred, prejudice and indifference.
She said the museum, which opened in 1981, fulfills its mission through the exhibition, preservation and interpretation of its collections and through education programs and initiatives that foster the promotion of human rights and the elimination of genocide.