Courtney Lumpkin, assistant director of Newton County Library System, describes the exhibit “Witness to the Holocaust: WWII Veteran William Alexander Scott III at Buchenwald,” on display at Porter Memorial Library through Nov. 22. (Staff Photos: Crystal Tatum)
COVINGTON — M. Alexis Scott remembers her father, W.A. Scott III, talking about his experiences as a photographer during World War II and showing her his dramatic pictures.
“I remember being upset by seeing one in particular, the one with members of his unit standing outside a building with a pile of dead bodies stacked like so much firewood,” she said.
Scott’s experiences as a photographer in a segregated battalion of the U.S. Army during the war, specifically his witness testimony of the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp, is told in the traveling exhibit, “Witness to the Holocaust: WWII Veteran William Alexander Scott III at Buchenwald.” The exhibit is on display at Porter Memorial Library, located at 6191 Ga. Highway 212, through Nov. 22 and is free to the public.
It will be formally presented to the community by Dr. Jerry Legge at 7 p.m. Monday. Legge’s research has focused on the Holocaust. He is currently associate provost for academic planning at the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs.
The exhibit draws parallels to the Jim Crow Laws and the Nuremberg Race Laws of 1935-1945 implemented in Germany and Nazi-controlled areas of Europe. It is based on a permanent exhibit at the Georgia Commission of the Holocaust headquarters in Sandy Springs.
“I hope viewers of this exhibit will see that hatred requires too high a price to pay. To hate someone just because of their religion or the color of their skin is ridiculous and you cannot fight hate with hate in return, otherwise we all end up killing each other: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth results in everyone being blind and toothless,” said Alexis Scott, now publisher of Atlanta Daily World, the first successful black daily newspaper in the country. The paper was founded by her grandfather. Her father worked there after returning from the war.
Scott was attending Morehouse College in 1943 when he was drafted into the Army. He was a reconnaissance sergeant, photographer, camoufleur and part-time historian in the Intelligence Section of the 183rd Engineer Combat Battalion. On April 11, 1945, he rode into Eisenach, Germany, on an Army convoy with the 8th Corps of Gen. George S. Patton’s 3rd Army. At the time, the United States Army was segregated.
After the war, Scott would become one of Atlanta’s leading citizens, working at several positions at Atlanta Daily World, becoming a civil rights leader, businessman, radio host, artist, poet and public servant. He served on the committee to celebrate the first official national holiday commemorating the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and was appointed by Georgia Govs. Joe Frank Harris and Zell Miller to be a member of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust. He was also appointed by President George H.W. Bush to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Scott died in 1992.
The Georgia Commission on the Holocaust, in partnership with the Georgia Public Library Service, is bringing “Witness to the Holocaust” to libraries throughout the state from May to November.
The project is supported by the Georgia Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities and through appropriations from the Georgia General Assembly.
“We want people to really understand the lessons of the Holocaust so they’ll understand the consequences of hatred, prejudice and discrimination,” said Sandra Craine, program coordinator for the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust. “It’s something people need to be constantly reminded of and have the understanding that it has relevance for their daily life.”
The exhibit also allows people “to get a local perspective against the struggle on discrimination, because Mr. Scott was an African-American man from Atlanta, so he grew up in the segregated South and segregated Atlanta and joined the segregated Army and then he was one of the witnesses to the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp.”