TIPTON, Iowa — Sandy Harmel was working at the Cedar County Historical Society Museum in Tipton one day before Thanksgiving when the phone rang.
On the other end was a man she had never met, with a story she had never heard.
The caller was Michael Luick-Thrams, a 46-year-old Iowa native and Quaker who told her the amazing account of the Scattergood Hostel — just a few miles from Tipton — that had been a resettlement house for Europeans fleeing Hitler.
Luick-Thrams had learned of the Scattergood Hostel as a young man and dedicated years to researching it, tracking down as many of the refugees as he could.
He wrote a book titled “Out of Hitler’s Reach” and created a display that was housed in a museum called the Traces Center for History and Culture, in St. Paul, Minn. The museum was closing, and Luick-Thrams was offering the exhibit to Cedar County.
Consisting of 13 panels with text and photos and a few artifacts, the exhibit is now set up in the Tipton museum, where it will be dedicated at 7 p.m. Wednesday with a program/slide show by Luick-Thrams.
“It’s important for this story to be told and retold,” Harmel said. “When Michael called, it was a shock. It was really hard for me to believe that such an event took place in our own front yard, and I had no clue that this ever happened.”
The panels are mounted against a backdrop that looks like the exterior of a house, with peeling clapboard siding, windows and a front door. More panels are mounted inside, where furniture is arranged to give the feel of a 1940s living room.
“It helps you travel back in time,” Harmel said.
There also are 16 framed photos from Scattergood guests and staff, and the artifacts include a pocket watch, two wooden bowls and several pieces of china. Photos show the guests sharing meals, scything grass, shucking corn, harvesting tomatoes and picnicking.
In addition to the exhibit dedication, several other activities are planned; all are free.
- From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, a Traces bus containing an exhibit about World War II German POWs in the Midwest will be open for tours on the museum grounds.
At 6 p.m., there will be a program about World War II POW camps in Iowa.
There also will be a private reunion for former Scattergood guests, staff and descendants at Scattergood.
- From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 18, a Traces bus containing an exhibit about Midwest POWs in Nazi Germany will be open for tours on the museum grounds.
Admission is free.