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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



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

Two April Events You Won’t Want to Miss: Special Screening of Schindler’s List and Yom Hashoah Commemoration

schindlers_listThe Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance has been dedicated to inspiring people to think about the consequences of their choices by teaching the Holocaust and other genocides.  Now in our 30th year, we remain steadfast in that dedication.

To mark 30 years, the Museum is proud to announce two special Holocaust Remembrance opportunities in April, the exclusive showing of Academy Award winning Schindler’s List and the 2014 Yom Hoshoah Commemoration.

On Thursday, April 24, at the Inwood Theater, the Museum will present an exclusive private benefit screening of Schindler’s List beginning at 6 p.m. The benefit screening will support the Museum and the USC Shoah Foundation in recognition of the vital work of both organizations, which have enlightened and inspired many people through the use of Holocaust testimony.

The film will not be re-released in theaters, so this is a unique chance to experience one of the most historically significant films of our time, one that led to the worldwide recording of Holocaust testimonies.

On Sunday, April 27, at Temple Shalom, the Museum will present the 2014 Yom Hashoah Commemoration, beginning at 6:30 p.m. This year’s Yom Hashoah observance is a testament to how the Holocaust changed the world. Special guests will light the six torches representing the six million who perished in the Holocaust. A musical presentation will allow us to further reflect on the lasting effects of the Holocaust.

Supporting both events enables you to contribute to two meaningful organizations, as well as remember and honor family, friends, and loved ones through words, photographs, and memorialization within our Yom Hashoah Book of Remembrance.

Join us at these events as we commemorate the Museum’s 30 years of education and promotion of tolerance within the human community. Celebrate the noble and necessary work of the USC Shoah Foundation and its impact on research and dedication to testimonial evidence. And finally, join us as we remember the events of the Holocaust and celebrate the lives of victims, Survivors, and Upstanders everywhere.

For information on how to become a sponsor for the April 24 benefit screening or to include your Memorial and Tribute to the Yom Hashoah Book of Remembrance, click here.

Hope for Humanity Dinner Set for October 30

Father Patrick Desbois

Father Patrick Desbois

Father Patrick Desbois, President of the Yahad-In Unum Association, will receive the Museum’s 2013 Hope for Humanity Award. Local Holocaust Survivors will also be recognized.

Fr. Desbois, who has devoted his life to confronting anti-Semitism and furthering Catholic-Jewish understanding, will be honored at the Museum’s Hope for Humanity Dinner on October 30 at the Dallas Fairmont Hotel, 1717 North Akard Street. The Hope for Humanity reception starts at 6 p.m. Dinner begins at 7 p.m.

Fr. Desbois has dedicated his life to preserving the memory of Ukraine’s former Jewish community and to advance understanding of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. To date, his organization has identified 800 of the estimated 2,000 sites of mass burial.

Tickets will be $350 (limited availability). Table prices begin at $3,500. For further information, please contact Development Director Maria MacMullin at 214-741-7500.

Sign of the Times: Museum’s New Herald Historically Proportioned

The new sign at the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

The Museum has installed a new sign on the Pacific Street/DART side of the building at 211 N. Record Street. The 16-foot long sign (and 16 inches tall) meets the exacting historical proportions required by Dallas city ordinances governing the West End Historic District. The sign, which uses high performance cast vinyl lettering, provides new and needed visibility for Museum visitors who park in adjacent parking lots. The sign took months of planning and one day to install.

July Events Promise to Enlighten and Embolden Museum Visitors

Rita Blitt

Rita Blitt

July 1:  Rita Blitt’s Reaching Out from Within: Stories of Perseverance 

Rita Blitt is an international, award winning painter, sculptor and filmmaker.

“When I create, I feel like I’m dancing on paper.” says Blitt about her passion for art. She began painting as a child and has lived a life filled with creativity and achievements.

Today, her paintings, drawings and sculptures have been featured in exhibitions in Singapore, Israel, Germany, Japan, Taiwan and Norway. She also has permanent exhibits in museums, galleries and public settings around the world.  She collaborated with other artists to create films including “Blur,” “Visual Rhythms” and “Caught in Paint,” which was shown at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.  Blitt also authored The Passionate Gesture and Reaching Out From Within.

Her work goes beyond the aesthetically pleasing to her efforts to make the world a better place. “Kindness is Contagious, Catch It!” is a poster Blitt created as a gift to the STOP Violence Coalition, but its world-wide popularity resulted in her presenting prints to every member nation of the United Nations. The Blitt family underwrites the Blitt Family Creative Arts Center at Synergy Services, a violence prevention and intervention center in Parkville, Mo.

Thirteen of Blitt’s colorful and dramatic pieces of sculpture and paintings, an exhibit entitled “Reaching Out from Within: Stories of Perseverance through Art,” will be on display at the Museum from July 1 through August 25, 2013.

July 11: Iraqi war translator Munir Captain

Join the Dallas Holocaust Museum on July 11 as Iraqi war translator Munir Captain shares his stories of despair, freedom and hope.

From 2003 to 2009, Munir Captain and his brother, Omar, served as translators to U.S. forces in their native Iraq.

New residents of North Texas, these brave men still have family in Baghdad, so their personal stories are not only current but relevant as family members in Iraq have faced reprisals for the brothers’ decisions to support American forces and their decision to live as refugees in the U.S.

The brothers bring interesting perspectives on the importance of the regime change in Iraq, the nature of the long insurgency there, the character of the American soldiers, the prospects for Iraq going forward and their own assimilation into American life.

Hear Murnir Captain speak at the Museum theater, 211 N. Record Street Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.

A Play for the Ages: The Timekeepers Demonstrates What it Means to be Human

Actors Karl Lewis (Benjamin) and Jeremy W. Smith (Hans) bring an often forgotten story of the Holocaust to the stage.

Actors Karl Lewis (Benjamin) and Jeremy W. Smith (Hans) bring an often forgotten story of the Holocaust to the stage.

What divides us as human beings should not be stronger than what unites us. Yet, history is filled with examples where differences, especially in matters of truth and justice, have produced tragic results.

Conflict over what we share in common—and who we are as individuals—well, this is the stuff of compelling stage drama. Make the setting a World War II concentration camp during the Holocaust, at a Holocaust Museum, and the drama is groundbreaking.

Such is the case with The Timekeepers, a limited-run play now at the Dallas Holocaust Museum Theater on select nights through June 22. The subject matter is strictly for adults. Tickets are available online.

Directed by veteran Texas artistic director Joe Watts, The Timekeepers tells the story of a young-ish German homosexual and a conservative elderly Jewish man who are forced to work together in a camp, repairing watches for the Nazis.

At first, inmate #70649, a character named Benjamin played by veteran Dallas actor Karl Lewis, who wears a yellow star on his camp uniform, won’t even speak to his new colleague. Hans, inmate #2202, whose pink upside down triangle brands his character, played by actor Jeremy W. Smith, a SAG member with television credits, takes the rejection in stride, as though accustomed to it.

Fomenting—and sometimes mediating—the relationship is Capo, a petty thief and camp inmate who oversees the watch repair shop, played by actor Eric Hanson, who makes his debut theatrical performance in the production.

Benjamin was a highly regarded watchmaker in Berlin prior to his deportation. He is expert at repairing watches that Nazi guards confiscated from new camp arrivals. Hans lied about his mechanical abilities—he knows nothing about repairing watches—to avoid certain death as a failed laborer in a camp cement plant.

As is often the case in life where obvious differences overshadow commonalities upon initial meetings, time and humor eventually washes away prejudice and indifference and the two men discover each has a passion for a shared interest: opera.

The two men become friends and even rehearse scenes from an opera that they will perform at a show for the Finnish branch of the Red Cross who will be visiting the camp in a few days.

However, when the show is suddenly cancelled, their common passion for opera instantly disappears and pride and prejudice overtakes each again and erupts in a raw, disturbing, enlightening and all too familiar scene from daily life even today.

To say more about the play by Dan Clancey would spoil an incredibly impactful production by Theatre New West.

In introducing the play, truly a first-of-its-kind production for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins noted how the Museum is committed to telling the stories of all Holocaust victims.

“Homosexuals are among the Holocaust’s forgotten victims,” she noted. “The Timekeepers, while fiction, is based on a larger story and it allows us to bring the ‘forgotten’ into the light.”

The play continues Fridays and Saturdays, June 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. Talk back sessions with the director and cast will occur after Friday night performances.

By Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum

For USHMM Scholar and Editor Geoffrey Megargee, the Holocaust Remains a Shocking Topic of Research

For years following World War II, many citizens of Germany claimed that they had no idea that Jews had been targeted for extermination during the Nazi regime. The Holocaust that took the lives of 6 million Jews and another 5 million “undesirables.”

However, new research that shows the number of Nazi ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories actually totaled about 42,500—rather than the 7,000 originally believed to have been established—made that claim specious.

“This really makes us question the claim by some that they didn’t know what was going on,” said Mary Pat Higgins, President & CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. “Given the new numbers we’re seeing, German citizens would have encountered an  incarcerated Jew on a regular basis.”

Indifference to the suffering of other fellow beings was at the core of a special lecture on June 6 at SMU’s Dallas Hall by Dr. Geoffrey Megargee, Senior Applied Research Scholar at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s (USHMM) Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, where he is the project leader and editor-in-chief for the Museum’s seven-volume Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945, the first two volumes of which are complete.

The task of documenting and cataloging the Nazi ghettos and camps began in the year 2000. The numbers are staggering: 30,000 slave labor camps (many on the grounds of privately-owned German factories); 1,150 Jewish ghettos; 980 concentration camps; 1,000 prisoner-of-war camps; 500 brothels where women were forced to live; and thousands of other camps used for euthanizing the elderly and infirm, performing forced abortions, “Germanizing” prisoners or transporting victims to killing centers. In Berlin alone, researchers have documented 3,000 camps and so-called “Jew houses.”

The existence of many individual camps and ghettos was previously known only on a region-by-region, fragmented basis. Using data from 400 contributors, researchers are now documenting the scale of the Holocaust for the first time—where they were located, how they were run, what conditions were like inside them and what their purposes were.

Living conditions in the camps varied based on their location, purpose and the personality and psychological nature of the camp’s overseer and the expectations placed on guards.

“It’s hard to form a picture of the treatment without sounding like a cliché. It certainly was no Hogan’s Heroes.”

Some of the camps represented the worst of human behavior—medical experiments performed on children and women at Auschwitz-Birkenau by Dr. Josef Mengele, for example.

In other camps, researchers discovered how other camp inmates went without food, medical treatment, and warm clothing  so that younger or more vulnerable others would have a better chance of survival.

“Nothing about any of this is neat,” said Dr. Megargee. “We’ve had to make it neat in order to describe it. What’s clear is that Jews were always at the bottom of the heap.”

Five more volumes of the series are planned between now and 2025. The program was supported by community partners, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Embrey Human Rights Program at SMU.

By Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum; Photo by Paula Nourse

Dr. Geoffrey Megargee speaks to a large crowd at SMU's Dallas Hall

Dr. Geoffrey Megargee speaks to a large crowd at SMU’s Dallas Hall

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