Penn State Berks hosts presentation on Holocaust and its impact on one family

Jeff Gernsheimer

Jeff Gernsheimer

Credit: Courtesy of Jeff Gernsheimer

WYOMISSING, Pa. — Jeff Gernsheimer will share the incredible story of his mother’s journey from Germany to England and then to the U.S. to escape the Holocaust, on Wednesday, Feb. 22, from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. in the Perkins Student Center Multipurpose Room, Penn State Berks. This presentation is part of the Penn State Berks Global Forum and it is free and open to the public.

According to the Penn State Berks (Re)Writing Local History website, Hilde Gernsheimer was born on May 2, 1926, in Cloppenburg, Germany. She was one of the children to escape through the Kindertransport, an organized rescue effort of children (but not their parents) from Nazi-controlled territory that took place during the nine months prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.

On Dec. 2, 1938, the Kindertransport traveled to Hamburg, and landed in Harwich, near Dover, England. Hilde was then placed in a camp until she could be relocated. In late December 1939, she received a letter from their family saying that their father had been released and they were going to try to get to America via Cuba. The family was given the choice between a small freighter or a liner — the infamous SS St. Louis. Tragically, they chose the latter.

They learned immediately of the dilemma that ensued when the SS St. Louis was denied the right to harbor in Cuba. The ship then began circling Florida but could not obtain permission to land in the United States either. Eventually they were sent back to Europe. It was 1950 before Hilde learned the fate of her parents.

This event is sponsored by the Penn State Berks global studies program. For more information, contact Zohra Melaouah-Shaffer at [email protected].

About the Global Studies program

Penn State Berks offers the only global studies degree in the Penn State system. While emphasizing a traditional liberal arts education in literature, politics, history and foreign language study, the bachelor of arts degree in global studies also promotes intercultural understanding and sensitivity to diversity — both of which are critical to navigating the 21st-century global environment. All Penn State Berks global studies majors are required to study abroad as part of their baccalaureate degree requirements, providing them with the unique opportunity to add real-world experience to classroom preparation.