Upstander Connection

Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

Upstander Series Speaker and Chinese Human Rights Activist Harry Wu: Bitter Winds Remain Gale Force in China

Harry Wu

For 19 years, Harry Wu, a young geologist from Shanghai, was confined to the laogai, China’s system of forced-labor camps.

Imprisoned in 12 different camps, beginning in 1960, he was forced to mine coal, build roads, clear land and harvest crops. Routinely beaten, tortured and nearly starved to death, he witnessed the deaths of many prisoners from brutality, starvation and suicide, which he attempted twice.

In despair, Wu, a lifelong Catholic, said, “I stopped praying. There was no hope.”

Harry Wu, now 77, told his gripping story of survival—and detailed continuing human rights abuses in China—to a standing-room only crowd on Dec. 4 as the Museum’s final speaker of the 2014 Upstander Speaker Series. His story is detailed in his harrowing memoir, Bitter Winds: A Memoir of My Years in the Chinese Gulag (1995, Wiley)

Wu was born into an affluent family in Shanghai; his father was a banking official and his mother “had descended from a family of well-to-do landlords.” Wu recalled: “My youth was one of peace and pleasure.

Then in 1949 came the communist revolution, led by Mao Zedong, who became Chairman of the Community Party of China. “My life changed dramatically. During my teen-age years, my father lost all his properties. We had money problems. The government took over all the property in the country. We even had to sell my piano.”

Wu studied at the Geology Institute in Beijing where he earned a degree. In 1956, the Communist Party began a campaign encouraging citizens, particularly students and intellectuals, to express their true views of the Party and the state of society (known as the Hundred Flowers Campaign). Although cautious, Wu eventually voiced some sentiments, by disagreeing with the Soviet’s armed crackdown of Hungary, and the practice of labeling people into different categories.

By the Fall of 1956, Mao abruptly reversed course, proclaiming that the true enemies of the Party had been exposed, and 19-year-old Wu was subsequently singled out at his university. “This was the first time I had ever been singled out as a political troublemaker,” Wu wrote later. “Most of my classmates were more pragmatic than I, and they just repeated what the Communists wanted to hear.”

For the next few years, Wu was criticized in Party meetings and closely monitored until his arrest in 1960 at the age of 23 when he was charged with being a “counterrevolutionary rightist,” and was sent to the laogai to serve a life sentence.

In 1979, at the age of 42, Wu was released from his life sentence, as some blatantly unjust sentences were re-adjudicated following the death of Mao in 1976.

Wu left China for the United States in 1985, after having received a chance invitation to become a visiting scholar from a University of California faculty member at Berkeley who had happened upon an article that Wu had written in an academic journal on Geology.

Arriving in the U.S. with only 40 dollars, a few clothes, and an ink tiger print that he had inherited from his father, Wu had to improvise where he would live since he did not have funding from the university for his first year. At first he was sleeping in the park, and in the subway when it rained. He got a night shift job making donuts at a donut shop for a few months; then a job at a liquor store, and was finally able to rent a cheap apartment. Wu continued to work various odd jobs during this period and in 1988 began working for an electronic chip manufacturer, where he became an assistant manager, and was able to buy a used car. Looking back on this period of his life, Wu felt that there was opportunity and if he just worked hard he could make it. After a series of meetings with a Catholic priest, Wu said he recovered his faith.

During his first years in America, Wu did not want to think about or discuss politics. He felt that he had already lost the years of his youth and he wanted to try to carve out a personal life and enjoy his freedom. But slowly he found himself getting drawn back into the discussion about prison camps in China and his own experiences there.

Called to testify before Congress, Wu became a human right activist.

In 1991, Wu accompanied Ed Bradley of the CBS news program 60 Minutes to mainland China for a story in which they posed as businessmen interested in purchasing factory goods in mainland China that had been manufactured by the slave labor of Chinese prisoners.

In 1992, Wu established the Laogai Research Foundation, a non-profit research and public education organization, considered a leading source for information on China’s labor camps; and was instrumental in proving that organs of executed criminals were used for organ transplants.

In 1995 Wu, by then a U.S. citizen, was arrested as he tried to enter China with valid, legal documentation. He was held by the Chinese government for 66 days before he was convicted for “stealing state secrets.” He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but was instead immediately deported from China. He attributes his release to an international campaign launched on his behalf.

In November 2008, Wu opened the Laogai Museum in Washington, D.C., the first ever United States museum to directly address human rights in China. Wu said he continues to be surprised by Western countries and governments engaging in business deals with a government where human rights abuses on a massive scale continue unabated—abuses such as China’s one-child policy, the political and legal status of Tibet, neglect of freedom of the press in mainland China, lack of legal recognition of human rights and the lack of an independent judiciary, rule of law, and due process.

“Harry Wu’s story of courage, reconciliation and simple human dignity is a history lesson all of us should become familiar with,” said Mary Pat Higgins, Museum President & CEO.

The 2014 Upstander Speaker Series Presenting Sponsor is Bank of Texas; Speaker sponsors include Richard and Trea Yip and The Dallas Morning News.

Be sure to save these 2015 dates for the Upstander Speaker Series, which promise another year of thought-provoking commentary and conversation. Locations for teach of these speakers will be announced closer to the events:

March 26: Michael Sam, currently a free agent in the NFL who, on Feb. 9, 2014, became the first openly gay football player drafted into the NFL.

June 4: Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland who has been described by the Polish author Mladen Petrov as the “24/7 Rabbi” for his tireless efforts to rebuild Jewish life in Poland that was nearly obliterated during the Holocaust.

October 26: Roméo Antonius Dallaire, a Canadian humanitarian, author and retired senator and general. Dallaire served as Force Commander of UNAMIR, the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda between 1993 and 1994, that attempted to stop the genocide that was being waged by Hutu extremists against Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

Meantime, be sure to visit the Museum’s current Special Exhibit, “Drawn to Action: The Life and Work of Arthur Szyk,” through Jan. 31. Szyk was a Polish-Jewish refugee who settled in the U.S. during WWII, advocating for democracy and fighting Hitler’s hatred with elaborate political cartoons featured on the covers of the most prominent American wartime magazines and journals.

-Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum

For Arthur Syzk, art became means to focus fearful world on tyranny of hatred; new must-see Special Exhibit opens at the Museum

“An artist, and especially a Jewish artist, cannot be neutral in these times…our life is involved in a terrible tragedy, and I am resolved to serve my people with all my art, with all my talent, with all my knowledge.” -Arthur Szyk, 1934

Artist Arthur Syzk was a proud Polish Jew who later became an American patriot. He saw his pen as a weapon against hatred and injustice.

“Art is not my aim,” he said, “it is my means. “

Indeed, during World War II, Syzk engaged in a ‘one man war’ against Hitler’s persecution of the Jews, and also served as a ‘one-man army’ against the evil Axis. He did so through finely detailed, elegant and pointed political and satirical caricature drawings, which served as a one-two combination of social justice and great art.

A curated selection of Syzk’s work is the new Special Exhibit at the Dallas Holocaust Museum through Jan. 31, 2015, “Drawn to Action: The Life and Work of Arthur Syzk.” The special exhibit is free with paid admission.

Syzk expressed his feelings toward those he despised—and those he wanted to portray as heroic or powerful—through dramatic color and exaggerated features. One sketch by Syzk from 1933 depicts Hitler as Pharaoh and Hermann Goring as a vizier.

His art was never ambiguous or abstract, Rabbi Irvin Ungar of New York once told the Atlantic. “It almost always had a common theme. Freedom not tyranny; justice not oppression—which, when combined with the uniqueness of his style, is why Syzk became one of the leading political artists of the first half of the 20th century.”

Presenting Sponsors for the special exhibit are Kathy and Harlan Crow and Gregg and Michelle Philipson, whose personal Arthur Syzk collection made the Museum’s curated collection of Syzk’s work possible. The Jan Karski Polish School of Dallas is Community Partner for the exhibit.

Realizing his illustrations could do more than words, Szyk set about documenting the atrocities committed by the Nazis in an attempt to shed light on the injustice brewing in Europe, Gregg Philipson, a devoted Szyk collector, told a crowd gathered for the exhibit’s opening reception on Nov. 13.

“He held a lonely pen in a crazy world,” said Philipson, who is a commissioner on the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission. “Eleanor Roosevelt called him a one-man army for the Allied cause.”

During World War II, Syzk’s illustrations were published throughout the U.S. in publications such as Time, Colliers and The American Mercury.

Sadly, Szyk died of a heart attack at the age of 57, on Sept. 13, 1951, in the U.S., leaving a rich and diverse body of work from illustrations of classic children’s books and an ornate illustrated Haggadah to highly charged and dramatic political cartoons covering the Nazis invasion of Poland through the civil rights era of the United States.

Thankfully, we are able to remember his works, his passion and his talent through his art—and legacy.

Please plan to join the Museum on Thursday, Dec. 4, for an Upstander Speaker Series presentation, featuring Harry Wu, a Chinese human rights activist who spent 19 years in Chinese labor camps. Mr. Wu will talk about his life in the labor camps, state-sponsored terror and torture, and what we, as citizens, can do about the tragic situation faced by others held against their will by cruel governments. Admission is $10 for non-members and $5 for students with ID.

In January, the Museum is hosting two special events you won’t want to miss. On Jan. 15, 2015, at 6:30 p.m., Rogge Dunn, founding partner at Clouse and Dunn, will speak on the topic of art as propaganda and Arthur Szyk.

And, on Jan. 25 at 3 p.m., the Museum will commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

–Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum

 

 

Drawn to Action: The Life and Work of Arthur Szyk

HitlerSzykDrawn to Action: The Life and Work of Arthur Szyk is a special exhibition that is open from now until January 31, 2015.

Arthur Szyk (1894-1951) was a Polish-Jew (and in the last decade of his life, an American-Jew) most known for his political and satirical caricatures of the Axis powers and its leaders. “Art is not my aim, it is my means.” Szyk proclaimed.

You’ll notice his illustrations use a stimulating palette of color and are meticulously intricate. His great attention to detail have been compared to what you would see from medieval monks and renaissance painters.

Ironically, before Szyk had even been to the United States, he did a series that depicted scenes of George Washington and the Revolutionary War. They were purchased by President Ignacy Moscicki of Poland as a gift for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and hung in the White House until 1943.

Szyk would consider his greatest achievement to be his illustrated version of the Haggdah, which tells the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt and took him 4 years to complete.

As soon as the Nazi boots stepped onto Polish soil, Szyk reacted immediately. He expressed his feelings by fiercely taking pen to paper in a “creative fight against oppression”. He turned Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese into extensively embellished and evil caricatures.

His anti-Nazi cartoons continued to be effective propaganda when he left Europe in 1940 and settled in New York. He was on a mission, literally “to alert and inform the Americans about the gravity of the situation in Europe.” Eleanor Roosevelt described him as a “one-man army” for the Allied Cause.

After World War II, Szyk embraced the patriotism of his adopted country and was granted American citizenship in 1948. Szyk continued to work and completed illustrations of Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales and even advertisements for Coca-Cola. Ever the activist, his later artwork allowed him to continue to be a voice against injustice… specifically against Jim Crow, the KKK and lynching.

The exhibit officially opened on October 25, but be sure to catch the Opening Reception for this one-of-kind exhibition November 13 at 6:30 p.m. RSVPS are required at rsvp@dallasholocaustmuseum.org. The public is invited.

Presenting sponsors for the Drawn to Action exhibit are Kathy and Harlan Crow and Gregg and Michelle Philipson Collection and Archive. Community Partners include the Jan Karski Polish School of Dallas.

- Devynn Case, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

 

The Answer: Yes. The Question: “Do Words Kill?” Genocide Prevention Begins With Confronting Dangerous Speech, Expert Says

FiresofhateFree speech is one thing. Dangerous speech is another, an expert in hate speech told a large crowd gathered at the Museum on Oct. 7 to hear the presentation, “Do Words Kill? Hate Speech, Propaganda and Incitement to Genocide.”

There are warning signs to listen for when it comes to dangerous speech, which can ultimately lead to genocide if not confronted, said Dr. Elizabeth White, Research Director for the Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

  • Dehumanizing the target group through speech.
  • Accusing the target group of plotting harm to the larger population.
  • Presenting the target group as a grave threat.

The speaker, the medium of dissemination of the dangerous speech, the socio-historical context and the audience willingness to hear the dangerous message are factors contributing to whether threatening speech takes hold, she said.

“Part of what makes speech dangerous is…when we are confronted by information that is contrary to our beliefs, we reject that information and the presenter of it,” she said.

Effective counter speech is the means to stall and eventually diminish the effectiveness of dangerous speech, Dr. White said. Recent applications of counter speech through effective text messaging have helped calm tensions and possibly prevent violence among groups in some African countries, she said.

Dr. White’s lecture was held in conjunction with the Museum’s newest special exhibit, “Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burnings,” now through Oct. 15. The special exhibit is free with paid admission.

Prior to her Museum appointment in 2012, Dr. White served at the U.S. Department of Justice as the Chief Historian and Deputy Director of the Office of Special Investigations and, most recently, as Deputy Chief and Chief Historian of the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section.

In both positions, she directed research to develop and support civil and criminal cases against the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, Nazi persecution and other human rights violations. She also contributed to interagency efforts to deny safe haven to human rights violators in the U.S. and to develop effective strategies for preventing and responding to genocide and mass atrocity.

Dr. White has a Ph.D. in History from the University of Virginia and is the author of German Influence in the Argentine Army, 1900-1945 (Garland, 1991), as well as numerous articles and papers pertaining to the Holocaust, postwar use of Nazi criminals by U.S. intelligence, and U.S. Government efforts to investigate and prosecute Nazi persecutors.

“Fighting the Fires of Hate” special exhibit is made possible by the Museum’s Presenting Sponsors, Joanne and Charles Teichman/YLANG 23 and Louise and Gigi Gartner. The exhibition was underwritten in part by grants from the Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund and the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, with additional support from the Lester Robbins and Shelia Johnson Robbins travelling and Special Exhibitions Fund.

We hope you will join us for two additional special presentations this Fall.

On Nov. 3, at 3 p.m. in the Museum Theater, Juliana Taimoorazy, Founder of the Iraqi Christian Relief Fund, will make a special presentation, “The Plight of the Christians in Iraq.” Ms. Taimoorazy will discuss the history and current situation involving Christian monitories in the region. A Q & A will follow.

On Dec. 4, at 6:30 p.m. in the Museum Theater, Harry Wu, a survivor of Chinese labor camps, will discuss his experiences and his memoir, Bitter Winds (Wiley, 2007) as part of the Museum’s Upstander Speaker Series. Mr. Wu will discuss state sponsored terror and torture and what the public can do about it. Admission is $10 for non-members, $5 for students with ID.

–Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum

 

Tried and Tested: Exonorees Share Lessons of Faith, Forgiveness

Dorothy Budd and Billy Smith sign copies of their book "Tested"

Dorothy Budd and Billy Smith sign copies of their book “Tested” at Sept. 9 Upstander Lecture                           

The three men share a history that none of us could imagine. Richard Miles, Christopher Scott and Billy Smith were wrongly convicted of crimes that they did not commit and served, cumulatively, nearly 40 years in state prison.

Through their long incarceration and the judicial proceedings that would eventually lead to their exonerations, the men developed a deep spiritual faith, extraordinary resilience, and a deep sense of purpose—a response to injustice that all of us can learn from.

Their experiences, tragically, are familiar to more than two-dozen Dallas County residents who were wrongly convicted of crimes and later exonerated with the help of Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins and justice advocates.

On September 9, at the Museum’s Upstander Speaker Series, the three men shared their stories, which are told in the book Tested: How 12 Wrongly Imprisoned Men Held on to Hope (Brown Books, 2010), by Dorothy Budd and Peyton Budd, her daughter.

Dorothy Budd, a former child sex crimes prosecutor and now an Episcopal deacon of Dallas’ Church of the Incarnation, also appeared at the event, telling a standing-room-only crowd in the Museum’s theater that the men serve as an example for humanity.

“It’s easy to say all criminals say they are innocent, so they all must be lying,” Ms. Budd said. “These three amazing men prove there are people in prison who really are innocent.”

Richard Miles spent 15 years in prison for murder and attempted murder. What troubled him most, he said, was the suffering his parents endured while he was incarcerated. “My parents were falsely imprisoned with me,” he said, noting that his father died just months before he was released. “I wasn’t’ allowed to go to my father’s funeral…”

Christopher Scott was wrongly imprisoned for capital murder for 12 years based solely on eyewitness testimony that later turned out to be false. No physical evidence—no gunshot residue, no DNA, nothing—linked him to the crime.

Billy Smith spent nearly two decades in prison, convicted of rape by eyewitness testimony even though he had a solid alibi. DNA evidence later led to his exoneration.

DA Watkins told the crowd that his Conviction Integrity Unit, which he formed in 2007 after taking office a year earlier, routinely reviews and re-investigates legitimate post-conviction innocence claims.

Dorothy Budd said her book isn’t meant to be an indictment of the U.S. justice system. To the contrary, she called it a “great” system but imperfect, as the cases she documented in her book attest.

Mr. Miles said: “There are some people who need to be locked up. I’ve met some.”

Faith, fortitude and forgiveness are takeaway lessons from Richard Miles, Christopher Scott and Billy Smith—lessons for life in even its darkest moments.

The presenting sponsor for the Upstander Speaker Series is Bank of Texas. Other sponsors of the September 9th program include Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, Liza and William Lee and The Dallas Morning News.

On Thursday, Dec. 4 at 6:30 p.m., the next Upstander Speaker Series event will feature Harry Wu, author of several books, including Bitter Winds (Wiley, 2007), a memoir about his 19 years of imprisonment in Chinese labor camps.

–Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

From Łódź Ghetto, Lessons for Living; New Exhibit, Speaker Share a Remarkable Story

Children at work in the Łódź Ghetto

Children at work in the Łódź Ghetto

The Łódź Ghetto was a miserable place filled with truly incredible people.

Ruled by a dictatorial elder of the local Jewish Council, Łódź Ghetto was “home” to about 164,000 Jews between 1939 and 1944—second in size only to the Warsaw Ghetto, and located some 75 miles to the northeast of the Polish capital.

Łódź Ghetto was the second ghetto, after Warsaw, to open following the Nazi invasion and occupation of Poland in September 1939 and the last to be liquidated when Soviet forces finally chose to enter the ghetto in January 1945 (even though Soviet forces were but 60 miles away by January 1944).

And, the Łódź Ghetto became one of the most productive industrial centers in all of Poland, fueled by the slave labor of Jews who manufactured supplies for the German Army in the naive belief by the autocratic Jewish Council elder, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, that “our only way is work” ethic would ensure the safety of ghetto residents.

Rumkowski, of course, couldn’t have been more mistaken.

Łódź Ghetto is the subject of the latest special exhibit at the Museum, “The Faces of The Ghetto: Their Lives Are Our Lessons,” now through August 20. The exhibit, free with paid admission, features the photography of two ghetto residents initially hired with Nazi consent to take identification photos of each ghetto resident—ID required to work and receive food rations.

But photographers Mendel Grossman and Henryk Ross did more than photograph identification cards. At great personal risk, they secretly documented life in the ghetto, and their unforgettable images leave the visitor with a searing portrait of the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions of Łódź Ghetto where people slowly starved due to meager food rations (caloric intake averaged between 700 and 900 calories a day; the average person consumes about 2,000 calories per day.) Łódź Ghetto was the size of one-square mile, had no running water and no sewer system. Residents were entirely dependent on the Nazis.

Yet, the photographers also captured the nearly imperceptible sparks of hope and resilience in the faces of the suffering population. It is an exhibit not to be missed.

To help inaugurate the new special exhibit, the Museum hosted Dr. Irena Kohn, an independent Holocaust scholar from Toronto and an expert on Łódź Ghetto, on July 24. Dr. Kohn wrote her doctoral dissertation at the University of Toronto (2008) on literary and artistic accounts of the Łódź Ghetto—work that included analysis of the Grossman and Ross photos.

In rich detail, Dr. Kohn explained how ghetto songs, photographs and presentation albums—all meticulously created by inmates of the ghetto—reflected the suffering and hope of residents. The focus of her remarks was a lengthy children’s poem contained in an album, “The Legend of the Prince,” which included 17 incredible hand-painted panels with text with deep allegorical underpinnings.

“We must observe and protect everything with a critical eye, draw sketches of everything that occurs…” Dr. Kohn quoted one diarist from Łódź Ghetto, who wanted the world to know what happened there.

Life in Łódź Ghetto was focused on work. Young children underwent training to work in textile and other factories. “Children were taught as early as possible to show themselves as productive workers, so they wouldn’t be deported,” Dr. Kohn said. Convinced that the only chance for Jewish survival lay in working productively for the Nazis, Rumkowski systematically deported potential political activists or anyone who might have had the capacity to lead resistance to the Nazis, she said.

By 1943, about 95 percent of the adult population was employed in 117 workshops, which created German war supplies. It was because of this productivity that Łódź Ghetto managed to survive long after other ghettos in occupied Poland were liquidated.

In the summer of 1944, Nazi leaders began the gradual liquidation of the remaining population at Łódź Ghetto. Rumkowski, who had been promised “special treatment” by the Nazis was deported to Auschwitz with his family where, on Aug. 28, 1944, he was murdered in the gas chambers along with thousands of others.

Only 877 Jews survived when the Soviet army liberated Łódź Ghetto on Jan. 19, 1945—half of whom were children. All together, only 10,000 of the 204,000 Jews who passed through Łódź Ghetto survived the war.

Henryk Ross managed to bury the negatives to his photographs of Łódź Ghetto, and he survived the war. He dug them up after liberation and began sharing them with the world. Mendell Grossman, who hid some 10,000 negatives in the window sill of his apartment, was shot and killed by a Nazi guard during a death march from a labor camp in Koenigs Wusterhausen in April 1945. Grossman’s sister later discovered the negatives, but during her emigration to what is now Israel, the suitcase in which she carried them was confiscated by an Egyptian border guard and has not been located. The surviving photos are those of prints that Grossman had given to close friends in the Łódź Ghetto before his deportation.

“The Faces of The Ghetto: Their Lives Are Our Lessons” exhibit is made possible by presenting sponsor Frost Bank.

Community Sponsors include:

Temple Shalom

Polish American Foundation of Texas (PAFT)

Polish American Council of Texas

Jan Karski Polish School of Dallas

A special thanks to: 70 kft for graphic design and exhibit curator, Dr. Thomas Lutz.

–Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holocaust scholar to present special lecture on the Łódź Ghetto of World War II Poland

Lodz Ghetto

Lodz Ghetto

University of Toronto Holocaust scholar Dr. Irena Kohn, an expert on Nazi-mandated Jewish ghettos of WW II, will present a special lecture on July 24 in conjunction with a new exhibit at Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.

Dr. Kohn’s focus will be the Łódź Ghetto of Poland, the subject of a new Museum exhibit, The Faces of the Ghetto: Their Lives are Our Lessons, which features documents and photographs illustrating the plight of Jewish inhabitants of the ghetto.

Her presentation will focus on songs, photographs and presentation albums created by inmates of the ghetto, including The Legend of the Prince—a lengthy children’s poem with allegorical underpinnings.

The exhibit can be viewed for an hour prior to the lecture, which begins at 6:30 p.m., and for thirty minutes afterward. Admission to the lecture is free for Museum members and $10 for non-Museum members. RSVPs requested at rsvp@DallasHolocaustMuseum.org

The Łódź Ghetto was quickly established by Nazi forces after the invasion of Poland in 1939, and eventually housed more than 160,000 Jews who were forced to live in unbearable conditions—overcrowded spaces and unsanitary housing and subjected to forced starvation.

The Łódź Ghetto’s Jewish Council hired two Jewish photographers, Mendel Grossman and Henryk Ross, to clandestinely take photos of Jews working inside the ghetto. The Jewish Council hoped the photos would prove to the Nazis that the work of Łódź’s Jewish inhabitants, and therefore their lives, were necessary to the war effort.

At great personal risk, Grossman and Ross bravely and faithfully documented Jewish life in the ghetto—far beyond their directive—by taking thousands of photographs, which they managed to hide just before being deported to death camps.

Faces of the Ghetto presents their work in oversize prints, bringing museum visitors face-to-face with the Jewish victims of Nazism and extreme intolerance and ensuring that the world will know of life in the ghetto as captured on film by sympathetic observers.

The images capture the nearly imperceptible sparks of individual hope smoldering in the eyes of suffering Jewish men, women, and children—as if to say where ever there is life, there is hope.

Dr. Kohn will also interpret some of the thought processes behind the Faces of the Ghetto, providing context and enhancing the audience’s experience of the exhibit, which is made possible by a generous donation of an anonymous donor and the presenting sponsor, Frost Bank.

Dr. Kohn wrote her doctoral dissertation at the University of Toronto (2008) on literary and artistic witness accounts of the Lodz Ghetto. Her work included analysis of the photos taken by Grossman and Ross.

 

 

Museum Launches New Lecture Program: The Upstander Speaker Series

UpstanderSpeakerSeriesMuseum President & CEO Mary Pat Higgins explained why the Museum is launching the new lecture program at the May 15 inaugural program, featuring New Yorker writer Philip Gourevitch who spoke about his reporting from Rwanda.

The Upstander Speaker Series is part of our continuing commitment to human rights and to ending the silence and indifference to the suffering of others.

As the only institution in North Texas dedicated to the education of Holocaust and tolerance, it’s our responsibility to extend awareness of genocide and human rights in the Dallas community.

The speakers in this series offer remarkable stories of courage, reconciliation, and the power of simple human dignity. Amidst terrible crimes against humanity they bring messages of hope by providing, by proving that actions do matter, that stopping atrocities is possible, and that change for the better will happen if we all stand up.

You won’t want to miss the next two speakers in our series: Dorothy Budd, the local author of Tested: How Twelve Wrongly Imprisoned Men Held Onto Hope (Brown Books, 2010), who will speak in September; and then in December, Harry Wu, director of the Lau Guy Research Foundation and author of several books, including Bitter Winds: A Memoir of My Years in China’s Gulag (Wiley, 1995), will speak, so you might want to get those books and read them before our next two talks.

Sponsors and community partners generously support the Upstander Speaker Series. The presenting sponsor is Bank of Texas. Other sponsors include The Dallas Morning News, the Embrey Family Foundation and the Franklin I. Brinegar Foundation.

Meantime, there are two other Museum events you won’t want to miss.

On Thursday, June 12, at noon in the atrium of the Museum at 211 N. Record Street, the Second Annual Lev Aronson Concert in the Atrium will be held, featuring cellists from all over the globe who will be in Dallas attending the Lev Aronson Summer Music Festival.

The concert also features the festival founder, renowned cellist and native Texan Brian Thornton. A complimentary light lunch and tours of the Museum will be available from 11 a.m. until noon.

You will enjoy the compositions of cellist and composer Lev Aronson who survived the Riga Ghetto and German concentration camps. After liberation, he had to reshape his life. He became principal cellist in the Dallas Symphony and taught music at SMU. May his memory be a blessing.

As a reminder, the Museum’s current special exhibit is “BESA: A Code of Honor,” through June 18, which tells the incredible story of the hospitality and love of Albanian Muslims who saved Jews during World War II. You won’t want to miss this exhibit!

Inaugural Upstander Speaker Series Features New Yorker Writer Philip Gourevitch Lecture On Tragic, Complex Topic: Rwanda 20 Years Later

Philip Gourevitch

Philip Gourevitch

Rwanda is a small country of giant complexities.

Landlocked by African countries known for corruption, Rwanda is home to a deeply divided—and deeply scarred—economically poor population who, despite great tragedy, now trusts its government leaders and perseveres to build a hopeful future.

Twenty-years after the genocide that resulted in the murders of about one million people over a 100-day period between April and July of 1994, it’s almost inconceivable to realize that Rwanda’s economy is one of the healthiest in Africa, that reconciliation efforts appear to be yielding positive results, if only on the surface, and that, in some cases, forgiveness is an active part of the healing process between perpetrators and victims’ families.

For the past 20 years, Rwanda has been a topic of passion for writer Philip Gourevitch of The New Yorker magazine, who believes the country’s layers of simplicity and complexity offers lessons for all of humanity. Gourevitch was the inaugural guest of the Museum’s new Upstander Speaker Series on May 15 at SMU’s Hughes-Trigg Student Center.

“In Rwanda, there is a high ratio of people who have profound things to say about life, death and hope,” Gourevitch said. “They raise unanswerable questions that keep me coming back as a writer to explore…”

One of the world’s authorities on Rwanda, Gourevitch’s 1998 book, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With our Families: Stories from Rwanda (St. Martin’s Press, 1998) won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the George K. Polk Book Award, and many other awards and recognitions.

Young and predominantly rural, the Rwandan population lives in a densely compacted area the size of West Virginia. Rwandans are comprised of three groups: the Hutu, Tusi and Twa. The principal language is Kinyarwanda, spoken by most Rwandans, with French and English as official languages.

At the Upstander Speaker lecture, Gourevitch described how the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) launched a civil war in 1990, which was followed by the 1994 genocide, in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 1 million Tutsi and moderate Hutu.

In some cases, Gourevitch said, the genocide involved neighbors who had once lived peacefully side-by-side “killing their neighbors. In this respect, the Rwandan genocide was the most intimate genocide in history.” The RPF ended the genocide with a military victory.

Civil war ensued in Rwanda until the year 2000 when all parties agreed the bloodshed should end. Since then, incredible progress has been made to rebuild the Rwandan economy, decrease poverty rates, reduce rates of child mortality and promote equality among the population through a national identity campaign, “We Are All Rwandans.”

For the past 15 years, Rwanda has actively been engaged in a period of reconciliation and justice, with the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the reintroduction of Gacaca, a traditional village court system.

The post-genocide recovery process has been difficult, but limited progress has been made, Gourevitch said. Killers have confessed to victims’ families, seeking forgiveness, but trust between neighbors and groups is slow, difficult and painful, he said. Overall, reconciliation efforts remain largely at the surface level, he said.

“When I asked those who had family members murdered by perpetrators  whom the family still sees every day what they mean by forgiveness, they told me, ‘It means I won’t seek revenge.’ That’s not exactly a high bar for what we consider forgiveness to be, but it is a high bar for civil society in Rwanda.”

Gourevitch said, “People are living better together. You have to make a future that is separate from the past that looks different. You don’t forget the genocide, but you don’t have to remember it all the time.”

This negotiated accommodation between perpetrators and victims is enforced by strict government restrictions on speech, assembly and official accounts of Rwandan history, which, in essence, cumulatively strives to “keep the peace,” Gourevitch said.

Gourevitch spoke for nearly 90 minutes, his vast and intimate knowledge of one of the most difficult topics for society proving to be gripping for the 100 people in attendance.

Gourevitch was born in 1961 to philosophy professor Victor Gourevitch, who translated for Jean Jacque Rousseau, and Jacqueline Gourevitch, who was a painter. Although he was born in Philadelphia, Philip spent much of his childhood in Middletown, Connecticut with his brother Marc, a physician. A Cornell University graduate, Gourevitch earned a Masters of Fine Arts from the writing program at Columbia University in 1992.

The writer’s newest book will be published next year. The topic: Rwanda 20 years after the genocide. The title: You Hide That You Hate Me And I Hide That I Know.

 –Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

At Yom Hashoah 2014, the Power and Passion of Memory Stirs Hearts, Souls As A City Remembers

Appearing frail but unbowed, deeply saddened but not wrecked, the Holocaust Survivors of North Texas filed into Temple Shalom for the Museum’s annual observance of Yom Hashoah, and the audience of 450 joined them to remember.

Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, is the day across the globe set aside to remember the atrocities and effects of the Holocaust by honoring those who survived and solemnly remembering those who perished. The observance of Yom Hashoah is a testament to how the Holocaust changed the world.

Following the procession of local Survivors into the sanctuary, Cantor Leslie Niren of Temple Emanu-el performed a moving partisan song Shtil, Di Nakht Ez Oysgeshternt, or “Quiet, the night is starry.”

“As we recall the horrors of the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom in his welcome to the April 27 event, “as we remember and honor the stories of survival and survivors, of endurance and perseverance, let us not be content to merely be informed. We will remember. We shall never forget. We shall be different and we shall transform this suffering into blessing for all the world.”

Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins thanked the local Survivors in attendance for their “courage, spirit and inspiration” and for serving as “a beacon of truth and moral authority.” But, she noted, “We are not free of the dangerous root of the core of the Holocaust.”

And then, in a collective affirmation of humanity’s light over its darkest side, the grandchildren of Survivors made their way to front to tell the stories of their beloved grandparents and to declare their lifelong commitment to keep their stories alive for their children and their grandchildren.

Aviva Linksman, granddaughter of Mike Jacobs; Rivae Balkin-Kliman, granddaughter of Gusta Kliman, and Augie Furst, grandson of Magie Furst, spoke first.

Tanya Johnson, granddaughter of Velvel Wolf Yonson and Leah Bedzowski Yonson; Elliott Tverye, grandson of Asye Tverye; and Lisa Hellman, granddaughter of Dahlia Hellman, completed the testimonies.

Upon concluding their stories, each grandchild ignited a symbolic torch in honor of their loved ones—and all who survived and perished the Holocaust.

Following the first three speakers and upon conclusion of the last three, musical interludes performed by two incredibly talented musicians featured works by Chopin, Kreisler and Debussey.

Playing the piano for the ceremony was Dr. Baya Kakouberi who is originally from Tbilisi, Georgia and is currently the Artistic Director of the Blue Candlelight Music Series in Dallas. Gary Levinson of St. Petersburg, Russia performed on a Stradivari violin, crafted in 1726 and courtesy of the Dallas Symphony Association. Gary is the Artistic Director of the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth.

Steve Waldman, Museum board chair, echoed the feeling of many in attendance when he concluded the ceremony, saying,  “…Isn’t it amazing that so very few Holocaust Survivors became demoralized and turned to anger, violence and revenge? Isn’t it amazing that people who suffered long years living in the most horrific conditions and people who lived through the near total deprivation of life, reacted, after Liberation, by enthusiastically embracing life. The near-unanimous reaction of Holocaust survivors was to marry, to bear children.”

Steve reflected on the profound impact survivors have had on the community and on those in attendance. About 125 Holocaust refugees, survivors, and hidden children reside in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“We are truly fortunate that hundreds of Holocaust survivors came to North Texas in order to live among us. We are grateful to them for contributing to making this a wonderful place to live and to raise families.” Steve ended his remarks by declaring Yom Hashoah “a day upon which the whole community can stand together and pledge: Never again. Not here. Not anywhere.”

Cantor Leslie Niren returned to perform El Maleh Rachamim, or “Merciful G_d.” Rabbi Paley led the Kaddish, or “The Mourner’s Prayer,” which marked the formal end of the ceremony.

A beautifully designed Book of Remembrance produced by the Museum was a treasured keepsake of the evening—a book dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust with pages filled with messages of love and remembrance from families of victims and survivors.

As the audience filed out of the sanctuary, the powerful words spoken earlier in the evening by Rabbi Paley seemed to silently echo throughout Temple Shalom—a takeaway message for this and future remembrances.

“Memory is a powerful tool,” Rabbi Paley said. “Memory has the power to educate – to transmit facts and events from one generation to another.  Memory has the power to inspire – to provide a measure of hope and possibility against the overwhelming odds of darkness and despair.  But, perhaps most importantly, memory has the power to transform – to take that which was, and provide meaning and relevance for those that come after, to be different, to be better, to be stronger, to be more courageous and to, hopefully, be more God-like.”

–Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

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