close ‘I knew the Lord was with me’: Last living witness to Germany’s WWII surrender Video

‘I knew the Lord was with me’: Last living witness to Germany’s WWII surrender

World War II veteran Louis Graziano looks back on his service and tells Marine vet Johnny "Joey" Jones his secret to living to be 100 years old.

On Friday, the National WWII Museum in New Orleans introduced its final permanent exhibit to 44 living veterans of the Second World War, including Medal of Honor recipients, liberated Holocaust survivors and the public. The opening of the Liberation Pavilion was also attended by American actor and longtime supporter of the museum Tom Hanks.

In a video posted on the museum’s website, President and CEO Stephen Watson said, “I am proud to announce that we will open our final permanent exhibit this fall, just in time for the last surviving members of the World War II generation to experience what we have built in their honor.”

The pavilion showcases the end of the war, the Holocaust, the post-war era and how the struggle has a lasting impact on American lives.


Much like the security framework following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, like TSA and DHS, historical consequences of the war changed the day-to-day lives of American people – in many ways that today’s generation and future generations don’t know.

NATO, a 31-member security alliance, was established in the aftermath of World War II to help prevent a third world war.

Newly opened exhibit at the WWII Museum

The final exhibition of the National WWII Museum in New Orleans is called the Liberation Pavilion. (The National WWII Museum)

“There was a post-war responsibility to protect democracy. It was America’s responsibility to create a post-war world, NATO, the rise of the American economy and American technology,” Michael Bell, executive director of the Jenny Craig Institute for the Study of War and Democracy, told Fox News Digital. “We, today, have a sense of responsibility to build upon what the World War II generation achieved. Freedom is always under pressure.”

The pavilion is circumscribed by three floors, each ornamented with honorary, educational and profoundly touching themes.

“When you come into the pavilion, you walk through a hallway that honors those who served,” Bell said. “16.4 million Americans served – that’s an incredible number.”

The wall athwart is permanently promised to the faces of the fallen, which features a selection of the 414,920 Americans who gave their lives.


The first floor of the Liberation Pavilion is a window into the human sacrifices of the war generation as well as the cost of the war. Here, you will find the centerpiece a transit case – or coffin crate – which previously carried the coffin and remains of an Army private. The crate made its way to Lorain, Ohio, to the family of the man it shouldered and now serves as a focal point of the pavilion in New Orleans.

Visitors will also find a recreation of the rooms in which Anne Frank and her family hid, hallmarked with a wooden dining room table that is extended upon by a ceiling projector that displays harrowing samples of Frank’s diaries.

“It appears that people would be living in there,” Bell said. “We have a Dutch teen reading excerpts of Anne Frank’s diary.”

Bell explained the museum wanted to recreate the spirit of Frank and her family’s experiences and highlight what life was like in hiding. The teams wanted to facilitate experiences for three types of audiences: those who would come through quickly, those who would stay for a long while, and those who intend on studying a piece without exception.

“Our job is to really cater to all three in the same space,” he said.


New exhibit at the WWII Museum in New Orleans

Tributes to the civil rights movement, women’s equality, the Holocaust and more are featured among the exhibits in the Liberation Pavilion. (The National WWII Museum)

Furthermore, the first floor of the new pavilion seated on six acres features a dimly lit, cave-like room with “hidden treasures,” including Jewish art that was looted by the Nazis during the war. The pieces of the past were returned to their rightful owners by American soldiers after the end of the war.

Visitors can also observe a simulation of bunk rooms that shirk understating the crowded living conditions and brick-and-mortar-like shelves used for sleeping at concentration camps.

The second floor showcases the lasting impact of the war, a history of war crime trials and more. Here, courtroom-like benches face a screen that bears tribute to the judges, prosecutors and testimonies during war crime trials like Nuremberg and Tokyo and the fall and convictions of high-profile political leaders of Nazi Germany.

“I think it really makes the war understandable on a personal level,” Bell said. “I believe they’ll leave inspired by America.”

Though 16-year-old Marine Pvt. Rufus Baker Austin did testify against the Japanese in the war crimes trials, he is not featured in this particular exhibit, but Bell says one particular fragment of his story is on display elsewhere in the museum.

Austin, part of the Marine Corps First Defense Battalion at Wake Island, was captured and held at a prison camp north of Shanghai for 44 months. He was issued a loincloth and served as a slave laborer for years before being liberated. The loincloth is on display in the same exhibit as a violin made from scraps by another POW.

U.S. Army veteran and pilot with the 448th Bombardment Group during World War II, Clair Cline and his four-engine bomber was shot down over Germany in 1944. He became a prisoner of war until he was set free.

“How do you keep yourself going?” Bell asked. “In four months, he took slabs of wood, scraped the glue from the bottom of tables and constructed a violin.”


Bell explained that Cline was skilled in making violins, but it’s clear with limited resources he was a true craftsman to compose such an intricate and impressive piece with scraps from beds and tables.

Cline went on to play that very violin on the heartsick Christmas Day in 1944 for the other prisoners in the camp where he boosted moral. The violin has been played by popular musicians in the past and has been donated to the museum to keep on display.

WWII Museum exhibit

The Liberation Pavilion tells the stories of the liberated and the liberators of World War II. (The National WWII Museum)

“That was ultimately donated by his family,” Bell said. Though the family wasn’t sure immediately which violin of Cline’s was constructed at the camp. “It was so finely produced they weren’t sure.”

Cline went on to become a cabinetmaker after the war and passed away in 2010.

Stories of wartime fill the entire three floors of the new pavilion through photos, artifacts, oral history and more.

In the pavilion, you can find 30-minutes of first-hand, horrific accounts of liberated survivors of Auschwitz and other concentration camps as well as those who were liberators.

“You’ll find the stories range from pretty euphoric like ‘I kissed the American’s boots’ to ‘I was unable to cheer. I wanted to, but I wasn’t even able to I had been so brutalized,'” Bell said of examples of the oral histories.


He explained that some recount their inability to dance or sing for a year or how many came to the realization that their entire families were slaughtered by Nazis.

Other exhibits include President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State of the Union “Four Freedoms” address, which gives context to changes to freedom of speech and religion.

Bell detailed the story of a Jewish community burying a 19th century Torah scroll in a cemetery during Hitler’s control. After the war, an Army rabbi was the first to perform a Jewish service after the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. The Torah was dug up and given to him by Jewish survivors following the service.

From there, a Faith in War Time exhibit is also present where the story of four Army chaplains lives. After the Dorchester coastal passenger steamship was torpedoed in 1943 by the Germans, lifeboats were damaged and thus there were not enough.


“They gave up their coats, gloves, life jackets, and they helped the soldiers,” Bell said of the four men, who consisted of two Protestant ministers, a rabbi and a Catholic priest. “They linked hands, prayed together and went down with the ship.”

The pavilion offers a monumental display to simple artifacts like lifeboats, religious pieces from the attack and an interfaith chapel where visitors can sit, pray or meditate after going through the recreation of the concentration camps.

The museum rose $400 million for its Road to Victory Capital Campaign to finalize the last permanent exhibit across the campus.

Gabriele Regalbuto is an SEO editor at Fox News Digital. Gabriele has a Journalism and Communications degree from West Virginia University. She has worked to produce content for newspapers, magazines, and digital platforms. At Fox, she has assisted in coverage of breaking news events including the 2024 presidential cycle, 2022 midterm elections, Queen Elizabeth II’s death, the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

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