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Remembering one of Iowa's last known Holocaust survivor

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River to River, hosted by Ben Kieffer

David Wolnerman was 13 years old when he was taken from his home in Poland and brought to Auschwitz. But when asked his age, he said he was 18. Wolnerman believes this lie saved his life.

Wolnerman survived 11 concentration camps and an encounter with Josef Mengele — nicknamed the angel of death — and after liberation in 1945, he met his wife and moved to America, spending much of his retirement in Iowa. Wolnerman died earlier this month and his son, Michael Wolnerman, joins River to River host Ben Kieffer to share stories from his father's life.

But first, Kieffer speaks with Xavier, the manager of Nature's Treatment of Illinois, a dispensary in Milan. Just 15 minutes from the Iowa border, much of their business comes from the Hawkeye state where marijuana remains illegal.


  • Michael Wolnerman, son of David Wolnerman
  • Xavier, manager, Nature's Treatment of Illinois
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Dani Gehr is a producer for River to River and Talk of Iowa. Dani came to Iowa from her hometown in the northwest suburbs of Chicago to attend Iowa State University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism, international studies and French. Before coming to IPR, Dani covered local government in Story County for the Ames Tribune and Des Moines Register.