Escape to Vir­ginia: From Nazi Ger­many to Thalhimer’s Farm

  • Review
By – May 3, 2016

Here are true sto­ries of two Jew­ish fam­i­lies in Hitler’s Ger­many and of the charis­mat­ic pro­fes­sor who comes to their aid. The teens have been shut out of their schools. The first, Eva, was sent to Eng­land for two years to com­plete her high school edu­ca­tion and was ter­ri­bly home­sick. The sec­ond, Top­per, want­ed out of the stran­gle­hold of 1930s Nazi Ger­many. Both teens end­ed up in a farm school named Gross Breesen” run by Dr. Curt Bondy, a Jew­ish pro­fes­sor for­mer­ly of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Got­tin­gen but no longer allowed to teach there. Instead, he became inter­est­ed in estab­lish­ing a Jew­ish school for stu­dents who have to pass his dis­cern­ing interview. 

The school, with some aca­d­e­m­ic sub­jects, was designed to main­ly train the stu­dents in farm­ing and Dr. Bondy’s phi­los­o­phy. It pre­pared them to emi­grate some­where out­side of Ger­many. He believed that he could mold them into becom­ing spe­cial human beings, not only skilled in farm­ing but also in cop­ing with what lay ahead. The Nazis were sup­port­ive of the school because it would rid Ger­many of a large num­ber of ado­les­cent Jews, which was what Hitler want­ed at that time. 

Dr. Bondy’s teach­ing and phi­los­o­phy cre­at­ed a group of ado­les­cents who were able to cope with some ter­ri­ble expe­ri­ences, the worst of which was when the school was shut dur­ing Kristall­nacht and they were all sent to Buchen­wald and had their heads shaved, and where they com­fort­ed and aid­ed oth­er prisoners. 

Dr. Bondy knew he had to get his stu­dents out of there and was aid­ed by the Joint Dis­tri­b­u­tion Com­mit­tee in the Unit­ed States. For­tu­nate­ly, Friedrich Bor­chardt, who was work­ing for the Joint had received a let­ter from a wealthy Amer­i­can Jew­ish own­er of the Thal­himer Depart­ment Store in South Car­oli­na, who pro­posed to buy a farm estate and host the Ger­man Jew­ish Youth who could con­tin­ue learn­ing farm­ing and even­tu­al­ly be self-sup­port­ing and safe. This is a fas­ci­nat­ing book that pro­vides a his­to­ry of the Holo­caust as the tapes­try against which the tri­als and adven­tures of these young Jew­ish youth played out until their adult­hood, when sev­er­al of the men and one woman, joined the US Army dur­ing World War II.

Includes notes, bib­li­og­ra­phy, archival col­lec­tions pho­to­graph­ic collections. 

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 13 and up.

Relat­ed Content: 

Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

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