By: Feiga Weiss, Head Librarian and Archivist –
On Wednesday, September 15, 2021, Hans Weinmann was laid to rest in the Clover Hill Park Cemetery, in Birmingham. It was a graveside service attended by his wife and a group of his closest friends. As a US Army veteran, he was accorded full military honors by several of his fellow servicemen wearing full dress uniform, saluting him, presenting the US flag to Mrs. Weinmann, and the playing of Taps as his casket was lowered. Hans Weinmann will be remembered for his integrity, commitment and sense of responsibility to every personal relationship and project he undertook. He was an advocate and supporter of the HMC, as the Center was first establishing itself as a museum, library archive, center for survivors and educational outreach organization. The work that he did has had lasting impact on our Center, visitors and the public, for which we owe him a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid.
Hans Weinmann was born in Vienna, Austria in 1926, was expelled from school because he was a Jew and was fortunate to be able to escape to England on the Kindertransport. In England, he excelled in his studies and was eventually able to reunite with his parents and brother in the United States. After high school, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the Pacific during WWII.
Although the above gives just a very brief outline of what he experienced, it in no way describes his total devotion to his true mission in life. He was an engineer by profession. But, his background as a refugee, Kindertransport child, and émigré most definitely influenced his activities outside his working hours and, as such, he devoted untold energy to helping the HMC’s mission in bringing Holocaust education to the masses.
Mr. Weinmann was very active from the beginning of the HMC’s existence in West Bloomfield as a docent and as German language expert. When the HMC moved to our current location in Farmington Hills, he used his native German language and historical knowledge expertise to translate numerous passages for our panels. He always made himself available whenever asked, with enthusiasm.
Mr. Weinmann was one of the HMC’s pre-eminent oral history interviewers. As an engineer by profession, he conducted the interviews with precision, accuracy and, most of all, sensitivity. Following the interview, he carefully summarized the oral history, was careful to check the grammar and typing and then approved the final version. He did this 116 times!
One of his not well known, but amazing accomplishments, was the translation of German Reich Security Office document descriptions that pertain to the persecution and extermination of the Jews from the more than 1,100 microfiche in our holding, containing 90,000 pages! This is primary source material for showing how the Germans legally went about their maneuvers to uproot and annihilate the Jews from the European and Asian continents. His translation of the document titles is on our website at German Documents from the Reichssicherheitshauptamt – Holocaust Memorial Center (holocaustcenter.org).
Additionally, he and Gail Kaplan worked tirelessly with the international Kindertransport Association behind the scenes to create the exceptional Kindertransport Quilts exhibit that adorn our museum. He worked closely with the creators and publishers of the book, Kindertransport Memory Quilt which describes the project. The quilts and book have shown themselves to be excellent methods whereby this chapter of Holocaust history is presented to children and adults alike in the most engaging manner.
Outside the HMC, Hans Weinmann was a member of the “Vienna Club,” a group of local Viennese emigres who got together socially. But, in reality, he was the defacto “Head,” the one to keep all members advised of issues relating to their lost properties/possessions, immigration and reparation updates. This was a landsmanschaft (hometown society for Jewish immigrants) for social, as well as, practical issues.
Hans Weinmann was married to his devoted wife for many years. It was inspiring to see the respect they gave one other. In addition to his Holocaust education activities, Mr. Weinmann was an avid skier and served on the National Ski Association Board. In his later years, Mr. Weinmann became wheelchair bound. However, there is no doubt in my mind that when his soul went Heavenward, and he presented before his Creator, he stood tall and straight as only someone whose gentlemanly demeanor, ethical standards, dignity and honesty marked and defined his journey here on earth. May his memory be a blessing. We will miss him.
Learn more about Hans Weinmann’s story by clicking here.