Collaboration strengthens Holocaust, genocide education in Nebraska
A new partnership between the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), a Holocaust survivor and a World War II soldier who liberated concentration camps will expand Holocaust and genocide education in Nebraska.
Omahans Louis Blumkin, a World War II liberator, and Sam Fried, a Holocaust survivor, both understand the need for society to be educated about genocide, so history does not repeat itself.
Their shared commitment now brings together a newly established professorship at UNO with a longstanding educational fund to provide exceptional teaching in Holocaust and genocide studies.
The Louis and Frances Blumkin family of Omaha recently made a gift to create a professorship in Holocaust and genocide education in the department of history at UNO.
The funding enables UNO to recruit a leading expert in Holocaust education. It also furthers the mission of the Heartland Holocaust and Genocide Educational Fund established through the work of Sam and Frances Fried.
The fund now carries the Frieds’ names to honor their advocacy of Holocaust education.
The Sam and Frances Fried Holocaust and Genocide Educational Fund supports college-level courses in Holocaust and genocide education at UNO, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Creighton University and Wayne State College.
“UNO is sincerely appreciative to the Blumkins, Frieds and others for their commitment to educating students and the broader community about genocide and particularly the Holocaust,” said UNO Chancellor John Christensen. “The creation of the Blumkin Professorship coupled with the support of the Sam and Frances Fried Holocaust and Genocide Educational Fund will add tremendous value to the university’s programs in these areas. Together, we will work to ensure that future generations will never have to experience these types of atrocities.”
The support provided through the Blumkins’ gift and the Fried Educational Fund will enable UNO to expand its course offerings, research and educational outreach efforts in the area of Holocaust and genocide education.
Currently UNO is recruiting a leading expert in Holocaust and genocide studies to the Blumkin Chair. This individual will work closely with the Sam and Frances Fried Holocaust and Genocide Educational Fund board to advance educational opportunities in the community and the state of Nebraska.
“The Blumkin/Fried relationship is a remarkable story that demonstrates how a positive understanding of human experience can survive the worst human tragedy,” said David Boocker, dean, UNO College of Arts and Sciences. “Together, the Blumkin Professorship and Fried Educational Fund will insure that students at UNO and across Nebraska can learn from a dark past to make a brighter future for people all over the world.”
When Fried was a teenager he was taken from his hometown in Czechoslovakia to Auschwitz-Birkenau during World War II. He eventually escaped and made his way to the United States and then Omaha.
“Back in 1979 when I chaired the Society of Survivors of the Holocaust, we held a dinner to honor the 1945 liberators of the Nazi death and slave labor camps,” explained Sam Fried. “They saved our lives. Louis Blumkin was one of these men of valor. The Blumkins have been constant supporters of our efforts to educate; to ensure that we will never forget. We are grateful to the Blumkins, as well as UNO, for this unique Holocaust and genocide education opportunity.”
Louis Blumkin, an Omaha native, served in the United States Army from 1939 to 1945. He helped liberate prisoners from several concentration camps and was awarded the Purple Heart.
After returning from the war Blumkin and his mother, Rose, built the family business into the nation’s largest furniture store — the Nebraska Furniture Mart. He and his wife also helped Holocaust survivors settle in Omaha and make new lives for themselves.
“The Sam and Frances Fried Holocaust and Genocide Educational Fund, the Louis and Frances Blumkin Professorship and UNO have created a unique partnership that will impact the learning and lives of students across the state for generations to come,” said Ken Bird, chair of the Fried Educational Fund board. “Our community will be forever grateful to the Blumkins and Frieds for their leadership and commitment.”