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Alumni World

Henry Saeman ’51 - Reflecting on his journey to freedom

While most Wittenberg University students hail from various towns and cities across the United States, Henry Saeman’s journey started in Germany in 1941. To save her son from the Nazi concentration camps, his mother was able to secure passage for her 14-year-old on a ship destined for the United States.

Three years earlier, his mother had secured passage for his sister on a ship to Israel. However, Saeman’s mother was not able to secure the visa she needed to leave Germany. Eventually, she was sent to a concentration camp, where she died, along with other members of their family. More than six million Jews were annihilated in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

“I always describe my mother as being the bravest woman who lived,” said Saeman ’51 from his Columbus office. “She gave up her two children to make sure that they were safe and sacrificed her life.”

Years later, he learned that his mother had died in the Piaski death camp in Poland. “It’s remarkable how records are kept,” said Saeman, who had traveled back to Germany to his hometown, Regensburg. “In the synagogue in Regensburg, they had posted all the names of all the people who lived there prior to World War II and were taken around April 1, 1942.”
At the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., the names of people who died in concentration camps are recorded in a book. “My mother’s name is in that book. My grandmother’s name is in that book,” said Saeman explaining that he also found the names of other relatives in the book. “My grandmother had eight children. One of my grandmother’s children had three children. Neither she nor her husband nor her three children got out. I always wondered how these evil people who killed millions found time to keep track of whom they killed. How did they do that?”

Penniless and without any family, the agency that brought him to the United States placed him with a family in Cincinnati. The social worker from the agency advised him to Americanize his German name, Heinz. “I picked Henry,” Saeman said. “And, I’ve been Henry ever since.”
Within six weeks, he learned to speak adequate English. He attended a vocational high school, where he worked on the school newspaper. One of the many families he lived with urged him to assimilate into the American culture. “The people I lived with made it clear to me that I must learn to speak English because the United States was at war with Germany,” he recalled. “I adjusted to the United States.”

At 18, he was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps. He served in Goose Bay, Labrador, in the northeast Canadian province of Newfoundland. “I became a masterful table tennis player in the cold where there was nothing to do, a craft I took with me to Wittenberg,” said Saeman, who became a U.S. citizen while he was in the Army.

Saeman initially had no thoughts of going to college because he lacked the resources. However, he attended night high school and took college prep classes. When he was 20, he was discharged from the Army in July 1947. At that point, he decided he wanted to go to college on the G.I. bill. While it was rather late to apply for the upcoming academic year, friends of his in Springfield knew the Wittenberg registrar, Helen Dyer, who helped Saeman gain admission.

Saeman knew nothing about baseball and other American sports, but within eight years, he learned enough to serve as sports editor of the Torch, Wittenberg’s student newspaper. He earned the nickname “Ace” at an Ashland football game. While he was reporting the game, he also took photos. “I was on one side of the goal line when there was an interception,” he recalled. “I beat the football player down to the other end so I could snap the picture of him getting a touchdown. From then on, they called me ‘Ace.’” He also joined the Wittenberg track team, running distances, and was a member in 1949 of Wittenberg’s only undefeated track team.

After graduation, Saeman began his long career in journalism at the Springfield News-Sun. He worked there for 15 years. Under editor Maynard Kniskern, Saeman learned a lot about writing. “His deft pencil guided me,” he said. “With a stroke of his pencil, he could turn a clumsy phrase into beautiful prose.”

While in Springfield, Saeman met his wife, Mitzi, at a Jewish wedding in Piqua, Ohio. The two married in 1954. Their son, Martin “Marty,” was born in 1957. A second son, Joseph “Joey,” was born in 1960. He died in 1992 after a severe asthma attack.In 1966, Saeman moved to the Dayton Daily News, where he was the urban affairs writer for three years.

Ready for a change, Saeman moved his family to Columbus in 1969, where he worked in public relations for a while. In 1973, he became the executive director of the Ohio Psychological Association. He admits that at the time he did not know the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist, but he quickly learned. As part of his job, he was managing editor of the Ohio Psychologist magazine. He also gained recognition for his lobbying skills.
After 18 years, he retired from his job at age 63. “I could tell and smell that my time of being an executive director was nearing to an end,” he said.

However, he had other plans for retirement. He wanted to start an independent newspaper for psychology practitioners. Friends, colleagues and prominent psychologists throughout the nation encouraged Saeman to start a new publication, which he called The National Psychologist.

“We started printing in 1991,” said Saeman, who had to borrow $25,000 to finance the project but repaid the loan within the first year. “And, we’ve never missed a deadline.”
The National Psychologist is recognized throughout the field for presenting unbiased news. As editor, Saeman makes sure opposing viewpoints are included in stories.

The newspaper, which is published in Columbus, quickly became a family business. Saeman’s wife, Mitzi, serves as the office manager. Marty, trained as a social worker, is the advertising/marketing manager. The family enjoys working together, he said.

Even though he is 75, Saeman still comes to the office each day. “I was doing most of it myself at the beginning,” he said. “In the last few years, I’ve slowed down.”

Saeman credits Wittenberg with influencing his 51-year career in journalism and public relations. “There is no way I could have accomplished what I have accomplished in my life,” he said. “Wittenberg had a lasting impact.”

—Heather Maurer

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