by Adam Harrington, CBS Chicago web producer
CHICAGO (CBS) — Former CBS 2 producer George Baum has released a chronicle of his experience in a concentration camp during the Holocaust – amid concerns that its atrocities have faded into history.
In his book, “The Human Spirit Under Siege,” Baum also compares the Holocaust and his experience with current events.
“Hardly a day goes by without a story about a vile anti-Semitic act, in this country or abroad. Hardly a day goes by without a story about inhuman attacks by Syrian troops targeting innocent children. There are daily stories of ethnic cleansing in China, Myanmar, Africa; stories of millions of children starving; refugees fleeing inhuman conditions and living in displaced persons camps, with no place to go; racial and ethnic profiling in this country,” Baum wrote in an email to CBS 2. “It is the human spirit under siege, every day, all over the world, barely 75 years after my liberation from a concentration camp.”
Baum wrote that the Holocaust has faded into history, and has become “a research subject, rather than a deterrent and document of man’s inhumanity to man.”
But for Baum himself, to say it was all too real would be a tremendous understatement.
Baum was 9 years old when he was incarcerated at the Terezin concentration camp, and 12 years old when he was liberated.
“In Terezin, I had an existence without emotion, a disembodiment from reality, a disengagement from life,” he wrote in the memoir.
Baum wrote that to this day, he has struggled to overcome the traumatic events of his childhood – first, his family’s exile from Libavske Udoli, a town on the German border where his parents had a general store; then, his family being evicted from an apartment in Prague and his being denied a return to school in second grade because he was Jewish. He wrote that he went on to be branded with the Jewish star, sent to the Terezin camp and separated from his family, and finally liberated – but with the realization that most of his family did not survive.
“I missed having a father after liberation the same way I missed having both parents in Terezin. Being separated there forced me, and I would guess all the other children, to accept life without parental love in the same way we accepted life without enough food,” Baum wrote. “We simply didn’t know the difference: there was no outside, no other reference point that would enable us to see a difference.”
Baum told CBS 2 by email that he believes it is especially important to document his experiences with their full emotional and spiritual weight because ignorance of the Holocaust is a growing problem – and, Baum argues, society has also failed to learn from past atrocities.
“A study in February 2018 by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, showed that two thirds of millennials couldn’t give the name of even one concentration camp; two-thirds of millennials in the poll said they hadn’t heard of the Holocaust,” he noted. “As humans, we have failed to learn from history because governments cannot be engaged by public opinion or international pressure, cannot be forced to act differently–the defense is always sovereignty, independence from outside interference, no matter what the U.N. votes on, the European Union decides, or what economic pressures are applied. Even years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, new walls are being built to keep outsiders out.”
Baum also wanted his children and grandchildren to know about the fate of their family.
“Our two granddaughters were encouraged by their mother to learn about the Holocaust. They had many questions, which, often reluctantly, I tried to answer. My wife encouraged me to write my story from the viewpoint of the child I was when the Nazis came to power,” Baum wrote. “That’s what I’ve tried to do, with the intention of helping to educate future generations.”
Baum further emphasized that he sought to put a contemporary spin on his harrowing experience, “by comparing it with current events that masses of humanity are recording on their cellphones every day.”
At CBS 2, Baum was first hired by Program Manager Ed Spray as a producer for Lee Phillip’s famous talk show.
Baum later moved on to the CBS 2 Sunday evening news magazine program “Two on Two” – hosted by Bob Wallace, Harry Porterfield, and Susan Anderson. Baum was a producer with “Two on Two” when the program won its first Emmy in 1979.