But Wittman, a generation younger than the project participants, said that she reaped an unanticipated reward through her participation in the effort.
“My parents are Jews from Hungary. They were children during the war. Their parents and families were killed. World War II was not something we talked about in our family; it was too painful for them. And it was never something I wanted to get involved in before.
“But I’m so happy I took on this project, because through meeting these people and hearing their stories, I’ve become so thankful and grateful for what people from this country have done. They saved what was left of my family and millions of other people,” Wittman said.
The project remains a work in progress. The committee has started offering monthly screenings in the Carleton-Willard Village’s auditorium, one interview at a time; after the first month or two, they regularly attracted a full house, and now the footage airs weekly on Bedford TV, the town’s community-access station.
A special guest earlier this fall provided a shot of adrenaline; thanks to a personal connection with a Carleton-Willard resident, the filmmaker known for his PBS documentaries stopped by to talk with the group. “Ken Burns emphasized to us that we were doing a service by putting out these stories,” said committee member Don Manion. “He helped us to see that there are now generations of Americans with no conception of World War II — not so much in terms of the historical circumstances, but in terms of the attitudes of the American populace.
“Without stories like ours, people don’t understand the extent to which nearly every American jumped into the harness and pulled in the same direction. We were not well-prepared to fight this war. But through spirit and tremendous effort, we were able to assist the countries of Europe and later, after the Pearl Harbor attack, to engage on our own behalf,’’ Manion said.
“We just want people now to realize that they have a darn good life as a result of having won this war,” said Sloan. “That’s the thing some younger people sort of forget. They’ve had a pretty easy time because they didn’t have to put up with a fascist government telling them what to do. And that’s thanks to World War II.”
E-mail Nancy Shohet West at nancyswest@ gmail.com.