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Jewish Life & History in Iowa: UI Archival Collections: World War II Era: History & Memory

World War II Era in History & Memory: An Overview

World War II Era in History and Memory


This page highlights collections with significant material related to the World War II era.  In some cases, collections shed light on the experiences of individuals and families who lived in locations like Germany, Poland, and Austria before and/or during the Nazi rise to power and the outbreak of World War II.  These men and women sometimes successfully fled Nazi-occupied countries, but at other times they and/or their family members became subject to the deprivation and trauma of Jewish ghettos and concentration camps. Memories of those experiences and of the Holocaust are part of memoirs, written family histories, and recollections recorded by Jewish congregations in Iowa.  In other cases, these papers provide information about women and men who offered service during the war years as soldiers, instructors for the Army Specialized Training Program, or writers for newsletters aimed at Jewish soldiers.  Wartime correspondence between spouses and other relatives provides insight into the meaning of the war for their personal lives, while other content helps readers understand some of what the war meant to Jewish communities in Iowa more broadly.


Check out the individual collection descriptions below to learn more!  The title of each collection links directly to the full finding aid for more complete details on biography/history, scope and contents, and collection material.



Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1858-2012. 4.75 linear feet. 

Nurse and community activist in Iowa City who, as a young Jewish woman, fled Nazi Germany and emigrated to the United States. Family correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs, and a memoir by Becker’s cousin (written in English) document Becker’s extended family and offer a look at Jewish life in twentieth century Germany, including the early days of Nazi occupation and Jewish flight; many of these materials are written in German. The papers also shed light on Becker’s life, career, and activism from the 1940s to the early 2000s, including her professional life as a nurse and educator and her work with community organizations such as Johnson County Association for Retarded Children (now ARC, the Association for Retarded Citizens), United Way, and Iowa City Hospice. 



Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1869-2018. 7.5 linear feet. 

The papers are centered on Norman and Hannah Scheer Berg and their children, followed by materials related to Scheer Berg’s extended family, who emigrated from Russia to Iowa in the nineteenth century. The couple married in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1941 and Norman Berg enlisted in the military a year later; his service records are part of the collection. Researchers will find extensive love letters exchanged between Norman and Hannah Berg during WWII, along with other correspondence, photographs, and biographical material from the WWII era and beyond.  


JACOBS, RICHARD (1924-2008) 

Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1935-2015. 5 linear inches.  

Associate Dean of the College of Dentistry and Professor of Orthodontics at the University of Iowa who, as a young man, escaped the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland and subsequently immigrated to the United States in 1949. The papers document Jacobs’ life and career, as well as that of his second wife, Ruth Federbusch, and her parents, who were also Holocaust survivors. Material of interest includes pages from a diary that Jacobs wrote while living in Germany; a history of Jacobs’ family, written by his third wife, Kathleen Jacobs; and correspondence and biographical information for other family members, including Jacobs’ aunts, Zenia and Lola Jakub. Collection materials are primarily in English, but there are also materials in Polish, German, Hebrew, Russian, and Spanish; most of the Polish materials have English translations.   



Location: University of Iowa Special Collections

Papers, 1940s. 

Gallup Organization poll collection on Jewish army issues.  


KOLLMAN, GUSTI (1912-2019) 

Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1910-2007. 4.5 linear feet. 

Jewish immigrant who fled Nazi-occupied Austria in 1939, followed by other members of her family. During World War II, she and her husband, Erich Kollman, lived in Iowa City, where they worked as instructors for the Army Specialized Training Program, teaching technical skills as well as Austrian social and cultural competency to American soldiers. The collection includes oral history interviews with Kollman in which she speaks about her life in Vienna during Nazi occupation, as well as the process of immigration to the United States. Extensive correspondence from the 1930s and 1940s engages with similar topics. Newspaper clippings and a small amount of correspondence concern Kollman’s brother, Fritz Binstock, who was imprisoned in Buchenwald and then fought with the British-Palestine Army during World War II. Much of the correspondence and some other material is in German. 


LEBOWICH, RUTH (1952- ) 

Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1945-2018. 2.5 linear inches. 

Ruth Lebowich was born in 1952 in Sioux City, Iowa, to Jewish immigrants, Martin (Moishe) Lebowich and Fanny Wolanski Lebowich. Her parents and older brother Gordon emigrated from Germany after living in a displaced persons’ camp following the Holocaust, and the family settled in Sioux City, Iowa. Ruth Lebowich and her family, including husband Steven Palash, were active in Congregation Beth Shalom. This small collection documents Lebowich’s family history, especially through photographs from 1945-1975. Materials of interest include her father, Martin Lebowich’s, immigration documents, a newspaper clipping about the marriage of two Holocaust survivors known to the family, and a plate that Martin Lebowich received upon entering a displaced persons’ camp in Germany. Martin Lebowich was said to use the plate for every meal for the rest of his life; the collection includes a photograph of him using it at a family meal.  



Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 1926-1980. 5 linear inches. 

The Braverman family were important members of the early Jewish community in Iowa City, settling there after immigrating to the United States from Russia in the 1910s. Newspaper clippings and correspondence form the bulk of the collection and primarily document the lives of Naomi Braverman, her parents Joseph T. and Sarah Braverman, and her sister, Betty Braverman during the 1930s and 1940s. In addition to documenting family members’ active involvement with Jewish, civic, and community organizations, the papers provide insight into the Iowa City Jewish community’s reaction to the rise of Hitler and the buildup to World War Two. One scrapbook includes a telegram to President Franklin D. Roosevelt from the Johnson County Taxpayers’ Association asking him to protect the rights of German Jews. 


NADLER, DAVID (1956-2017) 

Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Papers, 2009-2017. 0.25 linear inches. 

Collection consists of a memoir that David Nadler wrote about his mother, Renate Rothschild Nadler, who fled Nazi Germany with her parents shortly before World War II. David Nadler was born in 1956 in Waterloo, Iowa to Isadore and Renate Nadler. He practiced law and was very active in his synagogue and community. The memoir explores Renate Nadler’s childhood in Konstanz, Germany, as well as David Nadler’s trip to Konstanz several decades after the war. Nadler describes trying to visit important sites from his mother’s childhood, as well as the homes and property of other relatives, and finding the landscape very changed. 


SCHWARZ, LEO W. (1906-1967) 

Location: University of Iowa Special Collections 

Papers, 1921-1972.  

Leo Walder Schwarz was born in New York City in 1906. He attended Harvard University, where he specialized in Classical and Semitic Literatures and Religious Philosophy. During his lifetime, Schwarz was a writer, editor, and professor of Judaic Studies and Religion. Schwarz served in Patton’s 3rd Army during World War II and then was named director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), which assisted displaced Jews with emigration and rehabilitation. The collection includes significant material related to Schwarz’s writing and academic work. A smaller selection of material relates to Schwarz’s time as Director of the JDC and will be of interest to scholars of the Jewish diaspora and the history of displaced persons in the aftermath of World War II. This material includes operational records, correspondence, trial records, clippings, government reports, and a detailed diary he kept during the period. Researchers may also be interested in a book which Schwarz published about his experience with the JDC: The Redeemers: A Saga of the Years 1945-1952.



Location: Iowa Women’s Archives  

Records, 1901-2015. 10.2 linear feet. 

Records of Sioux City’s Shaare Zion Synagogue, Mt. Sinai Temple, Congregation Beth Shalom, and the Jewish Federation of Sioux City. Extensive records related to the administration, membership, activities and events, affiliated organizations, and history of these religious and community institutions. Includes material for several affiliated women’s organizations, such as the Women’s League, Mt. Sinai Sisterhood, and Hadassah. Records throughout include content from the 1930s and 1940s. Content explicitly related to the Holocaust and World War II and its aftermath can be found in items such as the collected memories of community members, folders on the World War II homefront and Holocaust remembrance days, and copies of wartime newsletters like “Regards from Home,” a publication aimed at Jewish men serving in the military during the war.  


From the Ruth Salzmann Becker papers















Ruth Salzmann Becker's identification card from Nazi Germany, 1939.

From the Naomi Braverman Markovitz papers

In 1939, the Johnson County Taxpayers' Association sent this telegram to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, asking him to protect the rights of German Jews.

From the Shaare Zion Synagogue records

Published by the Jewish Federation of Sioux City, this WWII-era newsletter was aimed at servicemen from the local Jewish community who were serving "nobly" and "unselfishly." Cover of January issue, 1944.