POWELL, Wyo. – The Heart Mountain Interpretive Center will open on Saturday, Feb. 18, its new exhibit, “Parallel Barbed Wire,” which features the remarkable stories of Heart Mountain incarceree Clarence Matsumura and Holocaust survivor Solly Ganor.
Matsumura grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from UCLA and was working in radio before he was incarcerated at Heart Mountain with the rest of his family. Ganor was a child living in Lithuania before the Nazi invasion forced him and his family into a Jewish ghetto and then a forced-labor camp in Bavaria.
The paths of Ganor and Matsumura crossed while Ganor was on a death march from his forced-labor camp outside the Dachau death camp and Matsumura was in a forward observer unit of the all-Japanese American 522nd Field Artillery Battalion.
Matsumura rescued Ganor after he had collapsed in the snow alongside the road on which he was marching to the mountains south of Dachau.
After the war, Ganor went to serve in the Israeli Army during its war for independence, while Matsumura returned to the U.S. They lost track of each other until they were reunited in 1992 by historian Eric Saul. Ganor chronicled their relationship in his memoir, “Light One Candle,” which the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation has recently republished.
“This exhibit has been over a year in the making,” said Krist Ishikawa Jessup, who curated the exhibit. “Combing through books, oral histories, primary documents, and with the assistance of Clarence’s and Solly’s families, we were able to piece together this amazing history. Though Clarence and Solly’s stories are a micro study of wider historic events, they expose the patterns and strategies of state-sponsored persecution and remind us that fear, racism, and hatred, when left unchallenged, can wreak destruction in any place and at any time.”
The exhibit uses archival photos and the words of both men to trace their lives from Wyoming, where Matsumura was born, to California, back to Wyoming and then Europe as a member of the U.S. Army, while Ganor weathered the hell of the Holocaust and then built a thriving life in Israel.
“Their remarkable friendship has been an inspiration … and we are proud to bring this story to visitors to the interpretive center,” the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation said.
The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation preserves the site where some 14,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated in Wyoming from 1942 through 1945. Their stories are told within the foundation’s museum, Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, located between Cody and Powell. For more information, call the center at (307) 754-8000 or email email@example.com.