April 30, 2004: Headlines: COS - Czech Republic: Writing - Czech Republic: POWs: History: WWII: Museums: Mitchell County Press News: Czech Republic RPCV Michael Luick-Thrams' traveling 'bus-eum' tells of life

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Czech Republic: The Peace Corps in the Czech Republic: April 30, 2004: Headlines: COS - Czech Republic: Writing - Czech Republic: POWs: History: WWII: Museums: Mitchell County Press News: Czech Republic RPCV Michael Luick-Thrams' traveling 'bus-eum' tells of life

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Czech Republic RPCV Michael Luick-Thrams' traveling 'bus-eum' tells of life

Czech Republic RPCV Michael Luick-Thrams' traveling 'bus-eum' tells of life

Czech Republic RPCV Michael Luick-Thrams' traveling 'bus-eum' tells of life

In St. Ansgar--

Traveling 'bus-eum' tells of life:

by Larry Kershner

Press-News Editor

(Above) AREA RESIDENTS MOVE through the bus-eum Saturday afternoon in St. Ansgar. The traveling display depicts an unblinking, unfiltered look in the travails of American POWs confined in Nazi Germany during World War II. (Press-News photos by Larry Kershner.)

(At right) JURINE JOHNSON READS one of the displays on the traveling museum depicting the life and treatment of American POWs in German hands.

The pictures are stark and disturbing. The stories of neglect and abuse are shivering.

And although the traveling museum display about the plight of Midwest POWs held in Nazi Germany during World War II is not a common weekend family outing, nevertheless it documents a piece of world history during a conflict that literally sucked in the entire world.

A thin strand of barbed wire strung around the bus was another grim reminder of those who were held as prisoners of war in Germany.

The "bus-eum" found its way to the Nissen Library in St. Ansgar Saturday afternoon. A small handful of visitors were waiting and a few others trickled in later to view the free display.

The cost for bringing the educational display to St. Ansgar was underwritten by the Nissen Library.

The traveling museum was in its 29th day, midway through its tour around Iowa. Driver, curator, docent Michael Luick-Thrams said POWs in Europe are his passion.

Living in the back end of the bus, Luick-Thrams had been to 80 towns and has had over 7500 visitors stroll through the bus.

"It's always quiet in there," he said. Indeed, the only sounds are the running videos, from DVD players and occasional hushed comments or remembrances of those walking through the display.

Sharon Stohr of St. Ansgar, a member of the library staff, said her uncle Walter Dieterich was a POW in Germany. "My mother said he was in Stalag 4," she said.

Sharon was four years old when her uncle came home.

"I remember he was thin as a reed," she said. She also recalled how her mother made the children save back some of their Easter candy one year to send it to her uncle.

Gabe Magee, came with his father Scott from Mason City to tour the bus-eum.

Gabe said that he's interested in World War II and that he didn't know much about POWs of that war and was wanting to learn about prisoners' lives.

He should have gotten his fill as the running videos documented their experiences, there were photos of the men and women who were captured, of the prison camps where they were held, art work of their incarceration, and several volumes of personal experiences which could be purchased for a few dollars.

"You always have an idea of how things might have been," Gabe said, "but this helps to bring some of the things out."

Gabe said he was surprised to learn that the German captors withheld medical care from some of the prisoners.

Scott Magee, a self-described "history buff" said walking through the display gave him a sense of what a neighbor, the late Max Bier, went through after he was shot down in his B-17 over Germany.

St. Ansgar's Micky Kofoot stepped off the bus and said she leaned for the first time the chronology of some of the events of WWII.

She recalled hearing about different events, such as the carpet fire bombing of Dresden, in school, but none of those things were told in any type of chronological order.

But there is an underlying, subtle political theme in the bus-eum that one can pick up, if one is paying attention.

"Millions of people died in World War II," said Luick-Thrams, "because good people in Germany said nothing during Hitler's rise to power."

He said Hitler's centralizing of communications and muzzling of the media helped him disseminate a propaganda of loyalty to the Fatherland that was supreme to all others in the world.

He said in this country, the same could happen again, especially as more media voices are merged and fewer people are controlling what is told to the populace.

"And if Hitler back in the 1930s and 1940s could affect the entire world," Luick-Thrams noted, "Imagine how when a new dictator rises it affects the world now."

Michael has roots to Mitchell County. His grandparents owned and operated Thrams Grocery in the old ghost town of Dixie. He grew up in the Mason City-Clear Lake area and has relatives in the St. Ansgar area.

Michael said he hopes when people step off the bus they take home with them that WWII "was indeed a global war and Iowa was affected."

Not were Iowans held in Germany, but German POWs were held in various sites around Iowa.

"Something people don't talk too much about here," Michael said.

Luick-Thrams said he has interviewed 50 former German POWs who were held in Algona, Fort Dodge, Waverly and other sites.

"The treatment they got here," Luick-Thrams said, "was much better than our guys got. That says something good for us.

"It made many of them do some soul searching. Some were rabid Nazis, some were anti-Nazis and others were apolitical."

Nevertheless, Michael added, there was a peculiar interplay between sworn enemies who became dependent on the other for food and medical care, when one became the other's prisoner.

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Story Source: Mitchell County Press News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Czech Republic; Writing - Czech Republic; POWs; History; WWII; Museums



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