LIHUE — “Thank you for sharing,” said Malcolm Carr of the Lihue Christian Church on Tuesday during the opening of the Unlikely Liberators exhibit. “I’m going to cry.”
Carr’s remarks followed those of Clinton Shiraishi, a 522nd Field Artillery Battalion veteran, who recollected some of the memories of 1945 when the unit encountered survivors from the sub-camps at the Dachau complex in Germany.
“That was more than 70 years ago,” Shiraishi said. “When we entered the camp, there were prisoners in striped suits who looked like ghosts. There were dead bodies on the snow, and in a large warehouse, there were dead bodies on a large shelf. In the back of the camp, there was a large oven — it was still warm — where the Germans would burn the dead.”
Shiraishi’s remarks drew a standing ovation from the more than 50 people, including The Jewish Community, members of veterans organizations and government officials who gathered to open the Unlikely Liberators exhibit which will run through 27 at the Kauai Veterans Center.
“The soldiers never considered themselves liberators,” said William Wright of the Nisei Veterans Legacy Center who accompanied the exhibit to Kauai.
His father was the second in command of the 522nd at the time they encountered the Jewish survivors from Dachau. “The soldiers were just doing their job — the survivors described them as liberators.”
Wright said the exhibit is broken down into four parts — the first being an introduction to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team which was comprised of Japanese-Americans who signed up for service following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The second section talks of the independent fighting unit when it reached Germany, and the third and fourth sections talk of the liberation of the Death March, and the horror of the camps.
“I had an opportunity to visit Dachau when I was in college,” said Carrice Caspillo Gardner, representing Gov. David Ige with congratulatory remarks. “What I didn’t know was the role of the 522nd artillery unit in the liberation and the Hawaii connection. This makes the exhibit even more exciting for me to view.”
Rob Goldberg said the Jewish Community is thankful and grateful for the exhibit which comes two weeks before the Jewish New Year, a time of reflection. The exhibit is a great moment to reflect, he said.
The exhibit was curated by Eric Saul using original photographs and negatives still held by veterans and their families. Additional photographs were collected from museums and archives from around the world.
The exhibit is open to the public Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is accommodation for those who want to volunteer to assist in showing the exhibit.