The jacket was stored in Michael Feuer’s attic until his brother decided it was time to bring it out and preserve its history. Before his brother’s death, he donated the jacket and $1 million to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Shapell Center.
By Alicia Victoria Lozano and Jim Rosenfield, NBC10, November 9, 2017. Click for full report, photographs and video.
Holocaust survivor Otto Feuer wore a brown corduroy jacket on the day he thanked U.S. forces for liberating the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in April 1945. He kept that jacket until his death in the 1980s, a reminder of surviving the darkest era in modern history.
The jacket traveled with him from Germany to New York City, where he eventually married and raised a family.
Now, more than 70 years later, his memento lives on at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Shapell Center, which preserves artifacts in a secure location in Maryland. His late nephew and adopted son Peter, a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, resident, donated that jacket and $1 million to the conservation center before he died in the spring.
“He had been incredibly modest and quiet about all of his involvement with the museum,” his brother, Michael, told NBC10. “That’s the kind of man he was.”
NBC10’s Jim Rosenfield visited Michael and the Holocaust conservation center to learn more about Otto’s life and his lasting legacy.
‘He Saw Terrible Things’
In old photos from World War II, Otto can be seen hanging from a post, his arms twisted behind him in a grotesque shape as his body slumps forward and his head hangs down. One other man is pictured next to him in the same position. A third man is on the ground, seemingly dead. But all three survived Buchenwald, which was built in 1937 near Weimar, Germany. That camp housed some 250,000 prisoners, including Jews, communists, gypsies, criminals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the unemployed. Gay people were the subjects of cruel science experiments meant to “cure” homosexuality.
On April 11, 1945, emaciated prisoners, including Otto, stormed the watchtowers and seized control of the camp. Later that afternoon, American forces wrestled control of Buchenwald away from Nazis.
In a newsreel recorded two weeks later, 31-year-old Otto can be seen thanking his liberators. He wore the corduroy jacket, which still has his prisoner number sewn into it.
“It was part of the overall package of memories, knowledge, conversations, awareness of what he had lived through,” Michael said. “He saw terrible things.”
Inside a climate-controlled vault, more than 18,000 artifacts are stored alongside Otto’s jacket. They include prison uniforms, Stars of David, artwork and armbands Nazis forced Jewish people to wear.
The vault housing Otto’s belongings is one of nine, and officials at the conservation center expect the number of artifacts to double in the next decade.