Exhibit highlights Jews' escape from Nazis

March 10, 2008

An exhibit examining the story of 13 Jews who escaped from a Nazi death march during World War II will open at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 19, in the University Libraries' Diversity Room.

"Anyone Would Have Done That: The Rescue of the 13 Jews from Ergoldsbach" is sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program, and through the support of the Gene and Roz Chaiken Endowment for the Study of the Holocaust; the departments of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, Comparative Literature and History; and the Penn State University Libraries.

The exhibit highlights the rescue of 13 Jews on one of the death marches from the Buchenwald concentration camp at the end of World War II. While thousands perished, some 200 prisoners reached the small town of Ergoldsbach in Bavaria at the end of April 1945, and from there 13 of them managed to escape. They were found by Max Maurer, the local police sergeant, who -- contrary to orders he had received that morning -- did not shoot them on sight. Instead he arranged for a cart to take the emaciated men to a barn belonging to a farmer who was known for her opposition to the Nazis. They were hidden in the hayloft, fed by the farmer Anna Gnadl, and rescued by the U.S. troops the following morning.

John Weiner is the last surviving member of this group and was instrumental in creating this exhibit, which was first shown in Ergoldsbach and Bavarian schools in 2005. Weiner himself weighed 53 pounds when Gnadl took him in; he finally left a Regensburg hospital after almost a year.

The exhibit includes various German newspaper clippings from the 1930s translated into English that give some insight into local politics during the Nazi regime. Additional documentation and material will be accessible online, including an interview with Weiner taped in Sydney, Australia, where he emigrated after the war.

Several of the German organizers from Ergoldsbach and Gerhard F. Strasser, the German coordinator of this exhibit, will be present and will field questions from the audience in Foster Auditorium, during the exhibit opening.


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Last Updated March 19, 2009