31 July 2009

Germany: Learning to farm in the 1930s

My eyes are always looking for Sullivan County (New York) news, and here's one about a Loch Sheldrake exhibit at Sullivan County Community College. It details the story of the Gross Breesen agricultural training camp.

The exhibit is not your typical Holocaust exhibit, but focuses on the pictures and words of young men and women learning to farm, despite the chaos around them in 1930s Germany. It was created by Dr. Curt Bondy who saw it as a way to counter Nazi oppression, to create a place where young people could learn skills and languages which would allow them to emigrate.

The project gathered the stories and photos of the 130 young men and women who found refuge there.
The farm has been an obsession of Steve Strauss for nine years.

Strauss, a photographer who used to work for "60 Minutes" and now splits his time between New York City and Sullivan County, started the project when he met George Landecker, a farmer from upstate New York who is a survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp and a former student at Gross Breesen.

Strauss began to restore and blow up for display Landecker's nearly microscopic photographs of the farm.

The result is "Learning Seeds," a multimedia exhibit, portions of which are on display for the next few weeks at the Sullivan college.
According to Strauss:

"The majority of (the Gross Breeseners) survived the Holocaust and went on to contribute great things all over the world," Strauss said. But he said an accounting of all 130 wasn't possible.After Kristallnacht, the Nazis took over Gross Breesen. They sent all the 18-year-olds to concentration camps and essentially made the farm a prison for the rest. But most had learned the skills to survive.

The exhibit will move to the New Jersey Museum of Agriculture later this year.

Read the complete article here. Learn more about Gross Breesen here.

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