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Republican Senatorial Medal of Freedom and presentation case awarded to J. George Mitnick

Object | Accession Number: 2006.11.40 a-b

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    Republican Senatorial Medal of Freedom and presentation case awarded to J. George Mitnick

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    Brief Narrative
    Medal awarded to J. George Mitnick after WWII for a lifetime of service to his community and country. Mitnick, a 27 year-old Jewish American, served as a captain in the 65th Infantry Division, European Theater and in the Chemical Warfare Service, 91st Chemical Mortar Battalion, 45th Infantry Division. His unit took control of the Ohrdruf concentration camp in April 1945; nearly all the inhabitants were dead, killed by the departing German troops. This was the first concentration camp liberated by US troops and descriptions of the conditions horrified the world. Mitnick’s unit continued on into Austria and was involved with the liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp. Captain Mitnick was awarded two Bronze Stars for his service.
    issue:  approximately 2000
    issue: United States
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Ronne Mitnick Hess
    a. back bottom edge in raised letters : MADE IN USA
    b. exterior, lower right side, gold letters : UNITED STATES / OF AMERICA
    b. interior bottom : FULLER
    Subject: J. George Mitnick
    Distributor: United States. Army
    J. George Mitnick (1917-2005) was born in Hartford Connecticut to David and Rose Mitnick (nee Schwartz). George was the youngest of six children and was raised in a conservative religious home. After high school, George attended the University of Connecticut. Due to family financial stress, George left school after two years and got a job at a supermarket. After a year, he began working at the lumber company owned by his father and two uncles. After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, George enlisted in the Army.

    George trained at camp Devens, Massachusetts, and Camp Lee, Virginia before entering Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Edgeward, Maryland. George graduated as a Second Lieutenant in the 45th Infantry Division and was sent to Gadsden and then to Fort McClellan, Alabama for further training. While he was stationed in Alabama, George was promoted to Captain. He also met Willine Engel while visiting Birmingham, and the two began a relationship. George then received orders to report to the headquarters of the 65th Infantry Division at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. While in Shelby, George and Willine were married in spring 1944, and then George shipped out to Europe with the 65th.

    The 65th landed at Le Havre, France in January, 1945, and was deployed to the German border in March. In April, the division advanced into Bavaria and captured the city of Regensburg. On April 13, George arrived at the recently liberated Ohrdruf concentration camp in Germany. There he saw the abysmal living conditions and the sickly, emaciated corpses of the prisoners the guards killed before they fled. On April 20, the division liberated a subcamp in the Flossenbürg camp system. In May, the 65th captured the town of Passau, then moved into Austria and captured the city of Linz. On May 9, hostilities officially ended in Europe, George was among the troops of the 65th who made contact with the Russians at Erlauf. After the war, George was assigned to arrange for the separation of displaced persons to allow transfer to their homelands.

    After George returned home, he and Willene settled in Jasper, Alabama and had two daughters. In 1948 George and his brother-in-law, Joe, opened a dry goods store. Over the next eight years, they expanded to nine stores. Then in 1956, they converted the stores to dollar stores with the new name, Top Dollar Stores. George and Joe were able to expand into a chain of over 230 stores in 11 states before the chain was sold to the Sav-A-Stop company. George was very active in professional, civic, and philanthropic organizations. He founded the Walker Area Community Foundation, along with the Walker College Civic Concert Association, and he and his wife established the Mitnick Fellowship Fund to help young adults in Alabama. George was President of Temple Emanu-El, in Jasper, as well as a past president of Walker County Lodge of B'nai B'rith and he was a Member of the Executive Board of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which named him "Man of the Year" in 2003.

    Physical Details

    Physical Description
    a. Round, gold colored medal on a blue ribbon with gold metal tension pin on the back. The medal front has an embossed eagle at the top, encircled by a wreath. In the center is an embossed 5 point star enclosing a ring with English text; in the center of this ring is an embossed image of the bust of the Statue of Liberty. The medal has a loop on top with a suspension ring that attaches to the ribbon.
    b. Blue imitation leather clamshell box with a large metal hinge and gold metal trim. The lid has vertical, gold band decoration and English text. The interior is lined with a removable gray insert with a pocket for the medal. Beneath the insert are 3 gold colored pin backings.
    a: Height: 3.380 inches (8.585 cm) | Width: 1.500 inches (3.81 cm)
    b: Height: 7.000 inches (17.78 cm) | Width: 4.310 inches (10.947 cm) | Depth: 1.000 inches (2.54 cm)
    a : metal, ribbon, cardboard
    b : imitation leather, cloth, plastic, metal, paint

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The medal and case were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2006 by Ronne Mitnick Hess, the daughter of J. George Mitnick.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-25 16:03:45
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