Hilbert Margol was born February 22, 1924, just ten minutes before his twin brother Howard, in Jacksonville, Florida. Their father had immigrated from Lithuania not too long before, as had their mother. The boys grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, learning about the war that seemed to be happening a world away. Still, the 1930s gave them some opportunities, especially on the baseball field, and Hilbert recalls seeing a young Hank Aaron play in Jacksonville. The boys were seniors in high school when Pearl Harbor was attacked, so they registered for the draft and tried to get in some college education at the University of Florida. Soon they were inducted and off to basic and specialized training; separated for a time, the two brothers managed to stay together in spite of official policy, thanks to a letter their mother wrote to FDR. They arrived in Marseilles, France during the winter of 1944-45, and were quickly in combat as they moved and in the direction of Germany. After crossing the Rhine, the 42nd Rainbow Division enjoyed a memorable seder, to be followed by powerful memories in the area of Munich. It was there that they came upon Dachau, the first of the concentration camps built by the Nazis back in 1933. By 1945 it had turned into a death camp, where thousands of Jews and other prisoners had died or endured the brutality of the Nazi regime. The sights the Americans saw that day stayed with them; they liberated the camp and the prisoners, and for Hilbert a lifelong mission of telling the truth began. A little over a week later it was VE Day, the end of the war in Europe. Hilbert and Howard then became part of the army of occupation in the Salzburg area of Austria. The voyage back to the United States happened in the spring of 1946, and the brothers were happy to shed their uniforms and go back to school. They both managed to reenter the swim of civilian life, establishing a successful business and raising their families. Many years later, Hilbert and Howard did begin to share their stories, and actively participated in Shoah education. It was through these connections that we met Hilbert, and Mr. Masters’ American History class was able to do a zoom interview with him in March 2021.
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