The committee was founded in 1996 thanks to the tireless efforts of Leonore Baeumler, Robert Karon, the Twin Ports Jewish Federation and the University of Minnesota Foundation.
The committee was named in honor of Dr. Walter Baeumler and Mortrud Kaplan.
Dr. Walter Baeumler
Born in Nurnberg, Walter Baeumler (1928-93) was inducted into the German army at age sixteen; at seventeen, he was a "veteran" who had escaped from the Russians and had returned to a destroyed home and a ruined town. His mother had been killed by a bomb, his father was a POW in France, an uncle had been killed in Stalingrad, and other close relatives were scattered across Europe. Soon he found his beloved grandfather, who suffered starvation and torture at the hands of the Nazis, dying in an American field hospital. He told Walter, "It is better to have tyranny end with terror than to have terror without end," and admonished his grandson to build a better future. Walter Baeumler did.
In 1955, Baeumler, his wife Leonore, and their baby son immigrated to America. With a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Nebraska, he came to the University of Minnesota, Duluth in 1965 and taught until his death in 1993. Together with his friends, Walter and Goldie Eldot, he established the Holocaust Commemorative Series at UMD while he taught classes on the subject. Professor Baeumler wanted to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust would neither be forgotten nor swallowed by a fascination with the horrible. Thus, in his honor, the Baeumler-Kaplan Memorial Lecture Series (now renamed the Baeumler-Kaplan Holocaust Commemoration Committee) was established to remember, with dignity, the lives and sufferings of the victims and to encourage change through the dissemination of truth, justice, and peace.
Mortrud Kaplan (1908-86), a lifelong resident of Duluth and a registered pharmacist, was the son of Lithuanian immigrants who worked hard to send their children to college. His sister, Mrs. Ida Grubnick, instructed her attorney, Robert J. Karon, to memorialize her brother with funds that she gave originally to the Jewish Federation and Community Council of Duluth, now the Twin Ports Jewish Federation. Mrs. Grubnick wished the commemoration to explore the plight of Jews and Judaism.