In the red and white checkered journal given to her by her father for her 13th birthday, Anne wrote down her experiences, insights, and dreams in a voice distinctly her own. “I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people,” she proclaims, “I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”
In 1995, while reading Publisher’s Weekly, the trade magazine of the book industry, Ms. Borden ran across an item about Margret Rey, the writer and illustrator known best for the Curious George series of children’s picture books that she and her husband, H.A. Rey, created from 1939 to 1966.
The short item noted how the Reys had escaped Paris in 1940, just ahead of the Nazi invasion of France, on bicycles and carrying a backpack with the manuscript of what would become the impetus for the first Curious George book.
The notice stirred the curiosity of Ms. Borden.
Had the Reys’ escape from wartime France ever been written about before? What route had the Reys followed to make their getaway? How did the Reys eventually end up publishing their series of books with one of the leading publishers in the U.S.?
So begins the story of author Louise Borden’s journey that concluded with the 2005 publication of The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey (now available in paperback from HMH Books for Young Readers), which chronicles the real-life escape of the Reys.
The book is the basis of the Dallas Holocaust Museum’s current special exhibit, “The Wartime Escape Margret & H.A. Rey’s Journey from France,” now through June 20th. Admission to the special exhibit is free with regular paid admission to the Museum.*
Ms. Borden was the special guest speaker on Feb. 12 at the opening reception for the new exhibit.
“I love the world of children’s books, and I loved telling this story,” Ms. Borden told a crowd of about 85 people who attended her presentation in the Museum Theater.
Curious George first appeared in 1941, published by Houghton Mifflin. The book begins with George living in Africa and tells the story of his capture by the Man with the Yellow Hat, who takes him on a ship to “the big city” where he will live in the zoo. Six other “original series” titles followed, and today, the books, which include more modern story lines, have sold more than 30 million copies in multiple languages.
The Reys were German-born Jews who most assuredly would have been captured by Nazis and deported to concentration or death camps.
In her presentation, Ms. Borden traced the Reys escape from Paris, through Spain, to Portugal, to Argentina and eventually to New York City, where the Reys lived in Greenwich Village to be close to their publisher and, later, following huge success with the Curious George book line, in Cambridge, MA near Harvard Square and at a charming New Hampshire farm.
Most of the research for the book on the couple’s wartime escape took place at the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. When Margret Rey died in 1996 (Hans had died in 1977), her will designated that the entire literary estate of the Reys be donated to the de Grummond Collection. In 1966, Dr. Lena Y. de Grummond, a professor in the field of library science at USM, had contacted Mrs. Rey about the university’s new children’s literature collection and, well, the rest is history.
Many fascinating angles emerged from her research, Ms. Borden said, including the fact that Curious George had first been named “Fifi. In 1939, the Reys had signed a contract with the French publisher Gallimard for “Fifi” and other stories. As it turned out, the cash advance the couple had received would later finance their escape to South America.
In October 1940, the Reys sailed to New York, settling first on Long Island with relatives before moving to Manhattan. A year later, the book about “Fifi,” who had been renamed “George”—the publishers thought it a more appropriate name for a male monkey—first appeared.
“George was a name that would become memorable for generations to come,” Ms. Borden said. And so it remains.
Several activities for families are planned in conjunction with the special exhibit, among them:
-Get Curious at the Dallas Zoo, Feb. 22, 2015, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
-Spring Break with Curious George at the Museum, March 9-13, 11 a.m.
-Get Curious at Klyde Warren Park, Sunday, May 3, 2 p.m.
-Art Competition for Student Groups: Reception & Judging, May 10, 10 a.m.
A special Teacher’s Workshop is also planned for March 12. More information on the workshop may be found on the Museum website.
The Benefactor Sponsor for the event is Fox Rothschild LLP. The Friend Sponsor is the Janis Levine Music Women and Children’s Endowment Fund of the Dallas Jewish Community Federation. Community Partners include the Dallas Zoo, Klyde Warren Park and the Dallas Theater Center.
This project is supported in part by an award from Mid-America Arts Alliance, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.
*Please note that the Museum’s core exhibit is recommended for children age 11 and older.
–Chris Kelley for the Dallas Holocaust Museum
Free 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
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
For 100 days in 1994, between early April and mid-July, more than 500,000 people were murdered in the East African state of Rwanda.
The Rwandan Genocide was a genocidal mass slaughter of the Tutsis by the Hutus. Some estimates of the death toll ranged up to 1,000,000, or as much as 20% of the country’s total population at the time.
The genocide was the culmination of longstanding ethnic competition and tensions between the minority Tutsi, who had controlled power for centuries, and the majority Hutu peoples, who had come to power in the rebellion of 1959–62.
Throughout the tragic ordeal, Carl Wilkens, a humanitarian aid worker from Chicago, was the only American to remain in the country. Wilkens moved his young family to Rwanda in the spring of 1990 to work for the humanitarian agency of the Adventist Church. During the genocide, he remained there with his wife, two children and two young Tutsis who would have been slaughtered had he not kept them safe in his home.
Three weeks into the genocide, Carl—at great personal risk—traveled to an orphanage near the Rwandan capital of Kigali, to bring water to the thirsty and starving children living there. Unbeknownst to him at the time, the children were also targeted for mass slaughter. However, his presence at the orphanage, along with negotiations with the would-be killers, resulted in hundreds of lives being saved.
On May 16 at the Museum, Carl Wilkens shared his incredible story in a special presentation, “Rwanda through the eyes of the only American to witness the 1994 Genocide.” More than 120 guests packed the Museum’s theater to hear the presentation, among them several survivors of the Rwandan genocide who lost loved ones to the unspeakable violence.
“The young woman and young man we kept in our home never asked me to stay,” said Wilkens, who been urged by close friends, his employer and the U.S. government to leave Rwanda immediately. “We could not leave.”
He downplayed his role in saving lives during the genocide. “I didn’t do anything by myself. I did it with others as part of a group,” he said. “None of us are God-like heroes on our own. But all of us can be an Upstander for 15 minutes.”
Wilkens said tens of thousands of lives could have been saved if the U.S. government or the U.N. would have permitted non-Rwandans to drive Rwandan citizens out of the small country to the safety of neighboring countries prior to the violence. Rwanda is a small country about the size of Maryland but densely populated with 11.7 million residents (2012 estimate).
Wilkens has written a book about the experience, I’m not leaving (ImNotLeavingRwanda.com), and a new 35-minute documentary by the same name will be released later this year.
For the past nine years, Wilkens and his wife, Teresa, have been travelling the U.S. and abroad to share their experiences with the aim of building bridges to peace.
Slowly, Rwandans are rebuilding their country and healing through the power of forgiveness, he said. He last visited Rwanda in January.
“We are not defined by what we don’t have or lost,” Wilkens concluded. “We are defined by what we do with what we have.”
–By Chris Kelley for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance; Photo by Paula Nourse
At age 19, while in Germany on a college research trip to study German and sift
through records from World War II, Bryan Mark Rigg—a devout Baptist while
growing up in Fort Worth—made two startling discoveries.
Both revelations would change his life.
The first surprise: the surprisingly large number of Jews who fought for Hitler’ Nazis
during World War II.
The second: That Rigg himself was born to a Jewish mother, which made him a Jew
“Welcome to the tribe,” an Ultra Orthodox Jew told him, recalled Rigg, who spoke to
about 75 people at a special Dallas Holocaust Museum lecture on April 25 about his
book, Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers (University Press of Kansas, 2002).
His work has been featured in The New York Times and on programs including NBC
Dateline and Fox News.
The book, which tells of the surprisingly large number of Jews who served in
the Nazi army, had its genesis in Rigg’s visit to a Berlin movie theater during
the summer between his freshman and sophomore year while a student at Yale
Rigg went to a showing of the film Europa, Europa, which is based on the true story
of Schlomo Perel, a Jewish man who served in the Nazi army and attended a Hitler
At the theater, Rigg made the acquaintance of an elderly man named Peter Millies,
who offered to translate the dialogue in the film. After the showing, Millies told Rigg
that he himself was a “Mischling” (a person of mixed, partially Jewish ancestry) who
had served in the Wehrmacht, the German army.
Intrigued by this story, Rigg decided to try to find other Jews who, like Millies and
Perel, had fought on the side of the Nazis.
Returning to Yale for his sophomore year, he suggested the idea to his professors,
who discouraged him from pursuing what they considered dead-end research. “That
only propelled me more to pursue it,” Rigg said.
Rigg estimates that there were 60,000 half-Jews in the Nazi army and 90,000
After graduating from Yale in 1996, Rigg went to Cambridge University on a Henry
Fellowship and continued his research. He received his M.A. in 1997 and a Ph.D. in
The thousands of documents and video-taped testimonies he amassed in the course
of his study have been collected as the Bryan Mark Rigg Collection in archives
housed in Freiburg, Germany.
Almost as remarkable as his historical findings, said Rigg, was a personal discovery
he made while going through old town archives: His own ancestors were Jewish.
He returned to his family in Texas, where he had grown up as a devout Baptist, with
the startling revelation. He now identifies himself as Jewish and has served as a
volunteer in the Israeli army.
“Identity became a key question for me,” said Rigg. “Who am I? Ultimately, the way
we identify ourselves determines how we view others. Therein lies the wisdom.”
–Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance
The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer presents an intriguing look at the mindset of Austrian and German citizens before, during, and after World War II. Although the title implies that Edith’s story began with her marriage, the book actually begins before WWII, when Edith is a student in Austria. The author shares her story of survival in great detail, providing the reader with a feeling of what it must have been like to experience life hiding in plain sight. Her story will pull you along until the very end, taking twists and turns you never would have predicted. In this book, you’ll meet Upstanders, bystanders, perpetrators, and victims, as well as discover the truth that sometimes people can be cruel and kind all at once.
As you probably know by now, our current temporary exhibit, Every Child Has a Name, is focused on the children of the Holocaust. Their games, drawings, and toys tell their story in a powerful way that make history come alive–especially to our younger visitors. As children tour the exhibit, they take in the idea that other children, often younger than themselves, lived and died during the Holocaust. While this moment may be difficult for some, it is a moment that we hope will allow the students to make a real connection with the Holocaust and the lessons of tolerance and understanding.
For those students who are interested in learning more about the Holocaust, there are many wonderful books available. Here is a brief selection of these books, selected for their quality and the power of the stories told within their pages.
The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
We Are Witnesses: Five Diaries of Teenagers who Died in the Holocaust, Jacob Boas
I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree, Laura Hillman
Number the Stars, Lois Lowry
Let us know if you have a favorite that isn’t listed, or if you have read and loved any of our picks.
There are undeniably many stories told about the Holocaust, each from a unique perspective. Diane Ackerman’s The Zookeeper’s Wife reveals the story of a Polish family who happen to run the Warsaw zoo when the Nazis invade Poland. As their animals are taken to Germany, killed, or left to fend for themselves, Jan and Antonia Zabinski use their unique position to take in Jewish citizens who have gone into hiding. While Antonia cares for the zoo’s many visitors, as well as her family and the remaining animals, Jan quietly works in the Polish resistance.
This tale is one that will engage your mind and senses, making you feel as though you are watching the events taking place, rather than just reading words on a page. Ackerman writes as though the story she is telling is fiction, although this work is nonfiction. The truth of the story will give you even more reason to care about the characters and their fates, and the masterful storytelling will give you the desire to read until you know how things end.
If you would like to learn more about this book, or would like to purchase a copy to read yourself, check it out here.
Day 3 started with a long bus ride to the site of a horrible Pogrom in the small village of Jedwanbe. Only 3200 people lived here in 1941 — half were Jewish and half Christian. All neighbors in a small town. The Christian half rounded up all the Jews one day and forced them into a tiny church and set it on fire. Poles killed Poles. It wasn’t discovered for 40 years because they let the Nazis take the blame. A memorial was on the site for 40 years giving credit to the Nazis until research uncovered the shocking truth.
To read about this terrifying attack, check out the book Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jebwadne, Poland.