Gross Bressen Review!

In Nazi Germany, a Life-Saving Education
Steve Strauss, a photographer in New York, created a multimedia exhibit about Gross Breesen, a farm school in Nazi Germany.
By Heidi Landecker
New Brunswick, N.J.
There are lots of Holocaust stories; this one is my father’s, as told through a multimedia exhibit at the New Jersey Museum of Agriculture, through January, here on Rutgers University’s main campus.
We saw the exhibit,
“Learning Seeds,” when it opened at the Virginia Holocaust Museum, in Richmond, two years ago. When I heard it would be at Rutgers, taking my father to see it again seemed a no-brainer. Dad is 91 and a dialysis patient in upstate New York, but he has always liked a road trip. He thought the New Jersey location might attract other alumni of Gross Breesen, the farm school in Germany that from 1936 until the Nazis took it over, in 1941, provided an education—and for some, a means of escape—for about 130 young Jews.
The exhibit centers on some 60 photographs from my father’s Gross Breesen album, and includes a video of elderly survivors talking about the school. Named for a nearby village in German Silesia, it was an emigration-training school and a haven from the terror enveloping Germany. The surviving Breeseners are now old, but the school changed their lives, and many of them have gathered annually since 1984, when Dad held the first Gross Breesen reunion, in Utica, N.Y. Some of them joked then, and still do, that the first Gross Breesen reunion was in Buchenwald. But I am getting ahead of my father’s story.
I was also curious about the venue. A private, nonprofit agricultural museum in New Jersey? In my experience, the state was a highway between New York and Pennsylvania. A campus I imagined as thousands of square feet of asphalt and concrete seemed an unlikely place for so agrarian a repository.
So when the three of us—George, my father; Heller, my sister; and I—arrived early to tour the museum, we were charmed. The collection includes artifacts not only from New Jersey’s agricultural heritage but from ours.

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