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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                       HOWARD MARGOL

INTERVIEWER:                  SANDRA BERMAN

LOCATION:                        ATLANTA, GEORGIA

DATE:                                 2008

Transcript (PDF)

BIOGRAPHY

Howard Margol was born in Jacksonville, Florida on February 22, 1924, to Jewish Lithuanian immigrants Morris and Sarah Margol. Morris was a businessman with a small department store. Howard had an older brother, Melvin, a twin brother, Hilbert, and a younger sister, Bernice. Howard and Hilbert had completed one year of college at University of Florida when they were called into service in the United States Army in 1943.

Initially, Hilbert was assigned to the 42nd Infantry “Rainbow” Division in Oklahoma and Howard was sent to the 104th in California as a first class private. After their mother sent a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Howard was allowed to transfer to his brother’s division. In December of 1944, the brothers arrived in France. They advanced with their division into Germany and in April 1945, liberated the Dachau concentration camp. After the war’s end in Europe, they were on occupation duty in Austria.

In March 1946, Howard and Hilbert returned home to Florida and continued their education. In 1948, Howard married Esther Landey, with whom he had four children. After graduating from the University of Florida in 1948, Howard and Hilbert went into business with their older brother. They started a business called National Home Supply, selling home items such as dishes, pots and pans. Later they went into the mattress and furniture business. Howard moved to Atlanta in 1965 and opened Giant Furniture Warehouse. Hilbert followed in 1987. Howard later worked for Home Decor Liquidators.

After his retirement, Howard became an authority on Lithuanian genealogical research. After a trip to Lithuania, he and his wife began the American Fund for Lithuanian-Latvian Jews to help rebuild and support the Jewish communities there. In 1993, Howard began taking annual trips with groups of people interested in their Jewish Lithuanian heritage to Vilnius and Kaunas. Howard passed away on February 9, 2017.

Scope of Interview:

Howard introduces his family and explains how his parents came to Jacksonville, Florida from Lithuania. He recollects growing up during the Depression and the start of World War II. Howard talks about being called into service and how he was able to receive a transfer to join his twin brother in the 42nd Infantry “Rainbow” Division. Howard recalls arriving in France after D-Day. He reminisces about a Passover Seder in Germany hosted by the Division’s Rabbi. Howard relays how he had to turn down gifts from French glassmaker Rene Lalique, after liberating a town. He shares a story about tricks his fellow soldiers played on a commander. Howard discusses his Divisions’ advancement into Germany and finding booby-trapped weapon caches. He describes what he witnessed when his Division liberated the Dachau concentration camp and accepted the surrender of the SS guards. Howard details daily life as a soldier and what it was like when the war ended. He mentions visiting Lithuania later in life and what he learned about the fate of his family there. Howard recalls returning home, finishing college and meeting his wife. He explains how he moved to Atlanta to open a furniture business. Howard reflects on how Blacks were treated in the army. He shares his opinion on Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan. Howard remembers his interactions with Germans and Austrians. He recounts Army reunions and reuniting with old friends. The interview closes with Howard’s thoughts on the importance of his experiences.

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