"The camp is filthy beyond description. Sanitation is virtually unknown. Words fail me when I try to think of an adequate description... The people of the camp themselves appear demoralized beyond hope of rehabilitation. They appear to be beaten both spiritually and physically, with no hopes or incentives for the future..."
These words were written in September, 1945 by Col. Irving Heymont to his wife Joan, describing the conditions at the Landsberg Displaced Persons Camp, the largest DP camp in Europe. At the young age of 27, he was tasked with serving as its commander, providing the survivors with the opportunity to regain their dignity and self-determination.
Many years later, Heymont concluded that "the few months I spent at Landsberg had a greater impact on my outlook on life than any other experience in my career." He learned that "despite the deepest inhumanity suffered, the spirit of a people to survive and recover cannot be crushed." The town of Landsberg and its history continued to play a significant role in his life, and in 1989 they honored him by naming a street Irving-Heymont Strasse.
Col. Heymont was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action in 1945, one of his numerous decorations. He and his late wife Joan had two children, eight grandchildren, and six great- grandchildren.
Because of his deep connection with the Holocaust and its aftermath, he always felt passionate about the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's mission, believing that we all have a responsibility to teach this history. Heymont chose to support the Museum's efforts by contributing photographs and oral testimony to the Museum's collection.
He also established three charitable gift annuities that provided him with steady income and other tax benefits during his lifetime and, following his death on March 17, 2009 at age 90, will now support the Museum's endowment. In this way, Irving Heymont's extraordinary legacy lives on.