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King University News :: Holocaust Survivor Jacqueline Mendels Birn to Speak at King College

Holocaust survivor, Jacqueline Mendels Birn, will share her experiences at the Buechner Institute at King College on Feb. 27, as part of the Institute's 2011-2012 Lecture Series.

As opportunities to hear first-hand accounts from holocaust survivors decrease, it becomes all the more important to listen to these stories, said Dale Brown, director of the Buechner Institute at King College. We are pleased to have Jacqueline Mendels Birn from the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum. Her experience with the U.S. Foreign Service and her work in documentary film further expands the range of her offering.

Jacqueline Mendels Birn's experiences as a Holocaust survivor began in May 1940 when Germany invaded France. At five, Birn's childhood was completely shattered when the Vichy government instituted Aryanization. Her father was forced to sell his business to his non-Jewish partner. Eventually, she and her family had to escape and go into hiding. Birn's parents, Frits and Ellen Mendels, along with Jacqueline and her sister Manuela, escaped to the tiny village of Le Got in Dordogne, where they lived in two upstairs rooms of a house with no electricity or water for 2 ½ years. It was during this time, Birn's brother, Franklin, was born.

In November 1944, the family was able to resume their life in Paris, but only after 20 close family members had been deported to Sobibor and Auschwitz and murdered.

While in Paris, Birn met her American husband, Richard, who was there studying. Together, they came to the United States in 1958, where they married and later had two children.

Birn's story is highlighted in a documentary film by her niece, Jessica Mendels. The film, 29monthsinexile, explores the family's escape, hiding, and ultimate survival in France at the time of the Holocaust.

Birn retired from the U.S. Foreign Service Institute in 2007. She now serves as a volunteer for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Jacqueline Mendels Birn will share her experiences as a Holocaust survivor at 10:30 a.m. in King's Memorial Chapel on Feb. 27. The event is open to the public and free to attend. For more information, contact Dale Brown at 423.652.4156 or visit