Bob Gillette to share riveting story of Escape to Virginia From Nazi Germany to Thalhimer’s Farm

by | Mar 6, 2017 | What’s Happening

Sunday, March 19, 6:30 pm
Congregation Beth El

In the beginning of Escape to Virginia From Nazi Germany to Thalhimer’s Farm, author Bob Gillette writes, “Hope and courage are the right hand and left hand of the human spirit that keeps suffering people going. They keep all of us going. That is what this book is about.” Told through the personal stories of teenagers Werner Angress and Eva Jacobsohn, this is a fast, captivating read that sheds light on this little-known story.

Werner and Eva participated in the Gross Breesen program, which trained German Jewish teenagers to be farmers, as the Jewish Council hoped that countries would grant visas to trained farmers. The head of Gross Breesen, Dr. Curt Bondy, enforced teaching the teenagers farming skills, but even more so, “insights into living” skills. He pleaded with his students: “Live with integrity. Understand your own motives for your actions. Be truthful. Cooperate, commit, think!”

In 1938, department store retailer William B. Thalhimer served as the national chairman for the Resettlement of German Jewish Refugees in America. Investing tireless amounts of time and money, Thalhimer purchased a farm in rural Virginia for the purpose of rescuing Jewish teenagers trained at the Gross Breesen Institute in Germany. For 13 months he battled the bureaucratic hostility of the State Department and as a result, 30 German Jews found their lucky escape to Virginia before immigration was completely halted.

Gillette was a nationally recognized public school educator for 40 years and was awarded the Mary Gresham Chair for his innovations in experiential educational. Among many recognitions for teaching, he received the Harvard Teaching Prize. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University, earning a BA and an MAT, and he studied at Hebrew Union College, the Reform Jewish rabbinical seminary.

The Virginia Plan: William B Thalhimer and a Rescue from Nazi Germany, was published in 2011, and his latest, Escape to Virginia From Nazi Germany to Thalhimer’s Farm was published in 2015.

Gilette and his wife, Marsha, are Connecticut Yankee transplants living in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The free event is open to the community. Dessert reception follows the program. Beth El is located at 422 Shirley Avenue in Norfolk. RSVP to Noelle@bethelnorfolk. com or 757-625-7821.