In 2010, Heidelberg experienced a rare and poignant program when Mr. Don Behm, Class of 1951, a direct participant in the liberation of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp at the close of World War II, and Holocaust survivor Mr. Jimmy Lichtman shared their incredible stories after being reunited decades after the war. From that event and a similar presentation the following year, the Lichtman-Behm Genocide Lecture Series is now established to remember and honor the survivors and the liberators, not only of the Holocaust but of all incidents of genocide.
The purpose of the lecture series is to bring to light the human tragedy of genocide for the campus, local/area school children and the community at large through special programming.
Each Fall semester, Heidelberg brings to campus guest speakers for a series of presentations to educate the campus and the community about the historic and contemporary incidents of genocide. These educational programs are designed to examine ways to prevent genocide and encourage participants to take an active role in responding to its aftermath.
Ultimately, it is the hope of the Heidelberg community that we will never forget and together, we will work toward a world where these atrocities will not occur.
The lecture series is named The Lichtman-Behm Genocide Lecture Series to honor survivors and liberators of all forms of genocide, such as the Holocaust, and defined as “the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious or national group.” Heidelberg is grateful for a generous gift that endowed this series, made possible by Dr. John R. and Leslie M. (Halstead) Behm, Class of 1976, especially in honor of Don Behm, John's first cousin once removed.
Sadly, with the August 14, 2015, passing of Don Behm, we have now lost both of the founders of this series. We will be forever grateful for their contributions to Heidelberg University and all of those who continue to be inspired by their stories. Indeed, theirs were lives of purpose with distinction.
Heidelberg University’s annual Lichtman-Behm Genocide Lecture Series is inspired by the life and experiences of Mr. Don Behm, ’Berg Class of ’51, a U.S. Army veteran, and the late Mr. Jimmy Lichtman, a Holocaust survivor. Both men witnessed the horrors of genocide firsthand during World War II. The series began in 2010 when Don and Jimmy shared their poignant stories of Holocaust survivor and liberator with the Heidelberg campus and the Tiffin community. We are eternally grateful to them.
James “Jimmy” Lichtman was born in Szatmar, Romania, in 1925, the only child in an upper middle class merchant’s family. In 1942, he was expelled from school for being Jewish, and two years later, he was sent to the ghetto. From there, he landed in Auschwitz and later, the Mauthausen/Gusen concentration camps in Austria, where he and his father were forced to perform slave labor. After his liberation in May 1945, he returned to Budapest and Szatmar to learn that his mother had survived Auschwitz. His father was murdered in Gusen. In 1947, Jimmy immigrated to the U.S. and settled in New Jersey. He took up work in an appliance and furniture store as a delivery and stock employee, becoming president and owner of the company 15 years later. He also became head buyer for the Appliance Dealers Co-op in the tri-state region. Jimmy passed away in his home in Boca Raton, Florida, in March 2012. He is survived by his wife, Martha, also a Holocaust survivor, two children, Kathy and Ronny, and four grandchildren.
Don Behm is a U.S. Army veteran, having served two years as a member of the 11th Armored Division in Europe during World War II. His unit is credited with helping to liberate prisoners of war from the Mauthausen concentration camp in May 1945. Following his military service, Don enrolled in Heidelberg and received his degree in 1951. He went to work for two years for the Northern Ohio Breeders Association and spent 13 years as a salesman for Nabisco. At age 40, Don found his calling as a teacher in the Thompson School District (later Bellevue City Schools), where he also served as head basketball, track and cross country coach for 30 years. He was a fixture at Heidelberg athletic events, serving on the chain gang and in the press box at home football games and as the scoreboard operator at home basketball games for nearly five decades. He is beloved at his alma mater for singing the National Anthem before countless athletic events over the years. He was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999. Don passed away on August 14, 2015. He was preceded in death by his wife, Jean (Good), class of ’52. Surviving are four children, Scott, Stephen, Stewart, ’90, and Suzannah, and numerous grandchildren.