Yano Library, Schofield Barracks Army Post, Wahiawa, Hawaii
Twenty volunteers gathered on Sunday to set up the Unlikely Liberators Exhibit, which will be on display for a month at Yano Library.
The photographic exhibit depicts the remarkable story of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion and the liberation of the Dachau Death March. Curated by military historian, Eric Saul, it documents the encounters between Nazi concentration camp prisoners and Nisei soldiers of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion. The 522nd was part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit made up primarily of Japanese Americans who fought valiantly for the U.S. in World War II. In the war’s closing days, the 522nd came across prisoners from the sub-camps of Dachau. Known as the Dachau Death March, prisoners were forced to march as the Nazi attempted to destroy evidence of the Holocaust. GIs from the 522nd – some of whom had volunteered from U.S. “internment camps” where their families were imprisoned – came face to face with and assisted the sub-camp prisoners.
On April 24, 1945, approximately 15,000 prisoners from the sub-camps around Dachau were moved to the Dachau camp and then sent on a death march towards the Austrian border. The prisoners were from the Jewish labor camps of Landsberg, Kaufering and Uting. The Nazis intended to murder all living eyewitnesses. The march journeyed through suburban towns in the Munich area. On May 2, 1945, after days of walking, only some 6,000 prisoners were still alive. Some died of starvation; others in failing health were shot dead along the route. As the prisoners approached Waakirchen, 37 miles south of Dachau, hundreds of them were lying on the open ground, covered in freshly-fallen snow. The Nazis began to flee upon seeing an advance patrol of the U.S. Army. These were the men of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion. For the next several days, they provided aid to the survivors, transporting them to Waakirchen, until a medical detachment could take over.
The exhibit was curated utilizing original photographs and negatives still held by the veterans and their families. In addition, photographs were collected from museums and archives all over the world, including the National Archives, the US Holocaust Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem, the Simon Wiesenthal Center archives in Los Angeles, California, and the KZ Gedenkstätte Dachau (Dachau Memorial Museum), Dachau, Germany. The exhibit also includes personal photographs from Jewish survivors who were liberated. The Unlikely Liberators Project has worked closely with the veterans and Holocaust survivors and has permission to exhibit this historic material in conjunction with the Unlikely Liberators exhibit.