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Holocaust exhibit shows resistance against Nazis

June 10, 1999

John GundlingBy JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




People crammed into boxcars, sunken eyes peering through barbed wire fences and piles of bodies are among the images that come to mind when people think of the Holocaust.

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Amid the terror of the Nazi regime and concentration camps during World War II were also stories of valor and resistance.

St. Mark's Lutheran Church is bringing those resistance stories to Hagerstown Sunday with the aid of a Baltimore man and his traveling Holocaust exhibit.

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"Everybody talks about the blood and guts and how they got killed, but nobody talks about who fought back and how they fought back," said Rachmiel Tobesman, who owns the traveling exhibit.

The Sunday school and Church Council of St. Mark's Lutheran Church invite the public to the free exhibit. The exhibit will be open from noon to 4 p.m. in the church auditorium at 601 Washington Ave.

The public also is invited to attend Sunday school between 9:45 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. when presenters will talk about the exhibit, confirmants will read and role play, and a memorial candle-lighting ceremony will be held, said organizer John Gundling.

One panel in the exhibit is dedicated to high school and college students who joined in the resistance, distributing leaflets and booklets encouraging people to be conscientious objectors.

The students, known as the White Rose Resistance, were all executed by the Germans, Tobesman said.

Their effort was successful, helping to sway German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel that Adolf Hitler should be overthrown and put on public trial rather than killed and made a martyr, Tobesman said.

Hitler took his own life a week before Germany surrendered in 1945.

The exhibit includes artwork by concentration camp prisoners and art and poetry by children in the camps, Tobesman said.

One of the more controversial panels in the display features Nazi propaganda that outlines the Nazi belief that Jewish people were murdering people for religious reasons, Tobesman said.

There is an exhibit about African-Americans who were imprisoned in concentration camps and the treatment of African-American athletes during the 1936 Olympics, he said.

Tobesman started collecting artwork, books, poetry and other memorabilia about Nazi concentration camps when he was teaching history to middle and high school students years ago.

"Most of my students never got beyond seeing bodies pushed into crevices and things of that nature. I wanted to give them a bit more," Tobesman said.

Instead of having them simply memorize information in a history textbook, Tobesman had his students prepare mock Nuremberg trials.

After World War II, Nuremberg was the site of the international tribunal for war crimes.

To broaden the scope of information available to his students, Tobesman interviewed concentration camp survivors and soldiers.

The traveling exhibit contains items donated by those survivors as well as other documents Tobesman secured during his research.

St. Mark's Pastor David Kaplan said it is his hope that holding the exhibit at the church will attract a more general audience, including people with no religious affiliation.

The resistance movement is a "neglected aspect" of the Holocaust, said Kaplan, whose father is Jewish.

"It will be informative to see Jews and others as more than mere victims, (but) as people who fought for civil rights," he said.

The church consulted with the B'nai Abraham congregation about hosting the exhibit and invited the congregation to participate, Kaplan said.

The visit will be the traveling exhibit's first to Washington County. The exhibit was planned and set up by Project Shalom, St. Mark's and the Child Access Center, where Tobesman is executive director.

Gundling and Kaplan said the exhibit will serve as a reminder of the capability of a fallen humanity and what we should not aspire to do.

"We've all seen more and more ghastly type stories on the news" such as the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, said Gundling, a member of St. Mark's.

"More people want to talk about guns and tools of slaughter. It took evil heart and plan of action to execute that kind of terror," Gundling said.

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