A moving exhibit opens this week at the Kauai Veterans Center. “Unlikely Liberators” is the story of the 522nd’s Field Artillery Battalion and the liberation of the Dachau concentration sub-camps in Germany during World War II.
More than a dozen volunteers spent Saturday helping the Kauai Veterans Council leadership and Bill Wright, a 442nd veteran, set up the exhibit, which opens for viewing Wednesday and will run through Sept. 27.
Opening ceremonies will be held Tuesday at 3 p.m.
“This is a joint effort with the Kauai Jewish Community and the veterans,” said Carol Kahn, one of the volunteers.
“I’ve only been here at the exhibit for a short time, but I’ve learned a lot. My husband Marty and I are volunteering to help.”
Dale Rosenfeld, another volunteer, said she was shocked when someone said, “Why should you care? It didn’t happen to you.”
“This happened to me on Kauai,” Rosenfeld said. “This is not about me. This is for everyone. I’m glad they were able to bring this exhibit here. Every person should make an effort to visit the exhibit — and learn.”
Curated by military historian Eric Saul, the exhibit uses original photographs from veterans and their families to document the encounters between Nazi concentration camp prisoners and Nisei soldiers of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion.
Additional photographs were collected from museums and archives, as well as personal photographs from Jewish survivors who were liberated.
The 522nd was part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit comprised primarily of Japanese Americans who fought for the United States during WWII.
Some of the 522nd volunteered from the U.S. internment camps where their families were imprisoned.
In the closing days of WWII, the 522nd stumbled upon roughly 5,000 prisoners marching through the countryside in what became known as the Dachau Death March. A battle ensued, which the 522nd won, and the soldiers liberated the Dachau prisoners. But according to reports, some Jewish prisoners were frightened by the sight of Japanese soldiers, since Japan was Hitler’s ally.
Clinton Shiraishi, a resident at the Regency at Puakea and the founder of Shiraishi law practice and Kauai Realty, is one of those veterans and he plans to attend the opening ceremonies for the exhibit.
Created more than 20 years ago, “Unlikely Liberators” has been shown at the Presidio Army Museum, San Francisco; Yad Vashem Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, Jerusalem; the African American Historical Society, San Francisco; the Holocaust Oral History Project, San Francisco; the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, San Francisco; and the Fresno Veterans Center. In Hawaii, it has been shown at veterans centers on Maui and Hawaii Island; Temple Beth-El, Honolulu; the Kahala Shopping Mall, Honolulu; and Schofield Barracks, Oahu.
On Kauai, the exhibit will be open Wednesday through Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays. The exhibit is free to the public, and teachers are encouraged to visit with their classes.