For Young Investigator, “Holocaust By Bullets” is a Never-Ending Search for Truth, Dignity

AlexisFor Alexis Kosarevsky, the newly-hired translator for the French organization Yahad-In-Unum and a native of Ukraine, the moment in 2008 was transformative.

Yahad-In-Unum was founded in Paris in 2004 by leaders in the French Catholic and Jewish communities to locate, map, cover and memorialize the sites of mass graves of Jewish victims of the Nazi mobile killing units during World War II operating in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Poland and Moldavia.

YIU is led by Father Patrick Desbois, a French Catholic priest whose grandfather was a French soldier deported to the Nazi prison camp Rava-Ruska, located in a Ukrainian town that borders Poland. Fr. Desbois was one of the Museum’s 2012 Hope for Humanity honorees.

The Museum’s current Special Exhibit through the end of the year, “Holocaust by Bullets,” tells the story of the mass killings of Jews, the murder of Roma and the disabled—and YIU’s quest to uncover the truth of the atrocities.

Alexis Kosarevsky, a project and team leader for YIU, working under Fr. Desbois’ direction, has participated in over 40 investigations in the Ukraine and Eastern Europe—research trips that have uncovered 1,700 gravesites.

At the opening reception of the new special exhibit on Sept. 10, Kosarvesky told of his first assignment—translating the testimony of an eyewitness to a mass killing of Jews in a Ukranian village during World War II by Nazis. The victims had been buried in a nearby, unmarked mass grave.

“Just a few weeks before, I was living a care-free life in Paris, a young bachelor,” Kosarevsky said. “Now, I had just retold the story of one of the worst experiences that I had ever heard in my life—of man’s inhumanity to man.”

During a break for the eyewitness, Kosarevsky said he walked to the edge of the mass grave and found himself speaking out loud. “I said to those buried there, ‘You are not forgotten anymore.’ ”

Speaking to a crowd of about 100 people gathered in the Museum’s Theater, Kosarevsky described the five stages that were part of each Nazi massacre, which are described in detail in the exhibit. All total, about 2 million people were shot and left in unmarked graves.

Tragically, it appears that modern-day massacres in areas such as Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, the Balkans and Syria may be modeled on these village-by-village, on-site massacres perpetrated by the Nazis and their collaborators.

Neither Yahad-In-Unum—nor he, personally—will stop the quest for properly identifying and memorializing each of the victims, Kosarevsky said. “We say to the killers of the world, wherever you kill the people, we will come back to uncover and document what you have done,” he said.

In her remarks at the opening reception, Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins said, “It is our fervent hope that presenting this exhibit influences all of us to work for a world in which history of this sort cannot repeat itself.”

The special exhibit is presented and sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.

Special thanks to the Carl B. and Florence E. King Foundation, for helping the Museum bring Dallas Independent School District students to visit the exhibit; 70kft; Signworks of Dallas; and for their partnership, Yahad-In-Unum and Father Desbois.

Be sure to join us on Oct. 15 for our next Upstander Speaker Series presentation: Ret. Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, former UN peacekeeping force commander for Rwanda at 6:30 p.m. at SMU.

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





“Ground Zero 360” Special Exhibit Reminds Us All of the Heroes Who Sacrificed All to Save Others on 9-11

groundzero360Kevin O’Rourke. Moira Smith. Alan David Feinberg.

They were among the first-responders of the 9-11 terrorist attack in New York who sacrificed their lives rescuing others.

David Martin Weiss. Stephen E. Belson. Brian Grady McDonnell.

In all, 343 firefighters and paramedics of the Fire Department of New York; 37 officers of the Port Authority Police; and 23 officers of the New York Police Department perished in the line of duty.

The up close and personal stories of these first responders—and the tragic events of 9-11—are told in an incredibly intimate, emotional and inspirational new special exhibit at the Museum, “Ground Zero 360: Never Forget,” now open through Aug. 25. The New York terrorist attack killed 2,750 people at Ground Zero. First responders helped save about 14,250 people. About 17,000 people were believed inside the twin towers of the World Trade Center when the attacks began.

“You might ask how this exhibit…fits into our Mission, and it’s an easy question to answer,” Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins told a group of about 75 at a special opening night reception for the exhibit, which is free with paid admission to the Museum.

“The 9-11 terrorist attack provides lessons about both the destructive force of hatred and the redemptive power of tremendous heroism, in the face of adversity. There is no better example of the ethical response to hatred than the selfless acts of the 9-11 responders, who put themselves at risk to save others,” she said.

The exhibit displays the work of Nicola McLean, a New York-based Irish photographer who captured powerful images in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Her husband, Paul McCormack, was the presiding New York Police Department Commanding Officer of the 41st Precinct at the time.

Together, over the course of 10 years, the couple created the exhibit in remembrance of the victims of the attacks and in honor of the heroic actions of the first responders who worked tirelessly in the hours, days and weeks that followed.

“Not only did they rush into the crumbling buildings to help people to safety, they worked tirelessly to uncover the remains of victims to help their loved ones find some semblance of closure,” said Ms. Higgins. “Then, in the aftermath of the destruction, they participated in the massive cleanup effort to help the city return to some sense of normalcy, not knowing their exposure to ‘the Pile’ would have long-lasting health implications.”

Walking into the exhibit, a wall of flyers greets the visitor—flyers of smiling faces of the missing with desperate messages from loved ones to contact them—that were posted throughout lower Manhattan in the hours and days following Sept. 11. For those who recall where they were and what they were doing on Sept. 11, the flyers immediately transport them back to the events of that day.

While the exhibit includes a small piece of I-beam—part of 200,000 tons of steal that collapsed at Ground Zero in NYC—and incredible photographs of the destruction of the attack, it is the stories of first responders that imbue the exhibit narrative with hope, heroism and resilience.

The story of NYPD Patrol Officer Moira Smith, the only female officer of NYPD to die with 22 other officers responding to the attacks, is particularly moving. Her voice is heard on police audio recordings calling for immediate backup—tough to listen to, but compelling for their meaning—which are included as part of the exhibit.

Jimmy Smith, her husband and former NYPD Officer, attended the opening event along with Ms. McClean, Mr. McCormack and Michelle and Tom Mason, both retired NYPD command staff executives who were present at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the attacks. Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Dallas Fire-Rescue Chief Louie Bright III were special guests at the opening event.

As he began his remarks, Mr. McCormack paid tribute to local Holocaust Survivors who were in attendance. “I couldn’t think of a more wonderful place to be than to be with you tonight,” he told the survivors. “You embody what you inspire here. Your mission is to keep the memory alive and to have us never forget…We share that mission with you as we will never forget those who sacrificed everything to save others” on 9-11.

Sponsors for the exhibit include the Communities Foundation of Texas and the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of Dallas. Community Partners include the Center for American and International Law and the West End Association.

Be sure to join us at the Museum on July 23 at 6:30 p.m. for the film presentation, “9/11”. For more information visit,

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


How Curious George Escaped the Nazis

showposterChildren’s author Louise Borden was, well, curious.

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


As ‘Propaganda and Persuasion,’ Arthur Szyk’s Art Inspired the American Home Front During World II Like No Other Artist, Dallas Attorney and Art Collector Rogge Dunn Says

Rogge Dunn

Rogge Dunn

Arthur Szyk was a gifted artist who used his pen against masters of propaganda during World War II—the evil Nazi regime, said Dallas lawyer and art collector Rogge Dunn.

“For Arthur Szyk, art was propaganda with a point of view, and he used his gift to stand up” against hatred, prejudice and indifference, Dunn told a Museum crowd of about 75 people at a Jan. 12 special presentation, “Art as Propaganda and Persuasion.”

A fifth generation Texan and a native of Dallas, Dunn is a founding partner of Clouse Dunn LLP, a law firm specializing in business and employment litigation. An avid collector of arts and antiques, he has a special affinity for World War I- and II-era propaganda posters, which he began collecting as a student at the London School of Economics in 1977.

Locally, pieces of his collection have been displayed at the Hall of State at Fair Park during the State Fair of Texas and the Frontiers of Flight Museum.

The work of Arthur Szyk is the subject of the current special exhibit at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, “Drawn to Action: the Life and Work of Arthur Szyk,” through Jan. 31.

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.

To effectively persuade a viewer, Dunn said, propaganda art must have a clear objective in mind. He suggested these “pillars of propaganda” are to:

  • Ridicule and vilify the opponent
  • Scare the viewer to prevent the threat
  • Glorify those who have taken action
  • Humiliate the viewer into action
  • Evoke empathy in the viewer by sharing suffering

Arthur Szyk’s meticulous hand-drawn art work was intended to motivate citizens into action both on the war front and the home front, Dunn said.

“In the Internet age,” Dunn said, “We sometimes forget the power of a single image to convey a persuasive message. It still does.”

Special thanks to the Texas Jewish Artists Association for sponsoring the event reception.

Please plan to join the Museum for these special upcoming events:

Sunday, Jan. 25, 3 p.m.: International Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemoration at the Museum.

Thursday, Feb. 12, 6:30 p.m.: Opening reception of the new special exhibit, “The Wartime Escape: Margret and H.A. Rey’s Journey from France”; Louise Borden, author of the War Time Escape, will speak about her discovery of the Rey’s story—a story which had not been previously known.

Thursday, March 26, 6:30 p.m., at the Communities Foundation of Texas, 5500 Caruth Haven Lane, Dallas, TX 75225, the Upstander Speaker Series presents Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player in the NFL, who will speak about his decision to “come out” in the often hostile and homophobic world of professional sports in his message of “Start Where You Are, Use what you Have and Do What you Can.”

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

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 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


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

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

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.



Besa: Perhaps the Last Great Untold Story of World War II; Now on Exhibit

"Besa: A Code of Honor" exhibit tells the story of how Muslim Albanians rescued Jews during World War II

“Besa: A Code of Honor” exhibit tells the story of how Muslim Albanians rescued Jews during World War II


Seventy-five years ago, when the Nazis began their murderous takeover of Eastern Europe, Jews by the hundreds began relocating into what is now the Republic of Albania, seeking protection.

One of the poorest countries in Southeastern Europe, Albania, where nearly two-thirds of the population adheres to Islam, seemed one of the least likely places for Jews to seek refuge.

Prior to World War II only about 200 Albanians were Jewish. At the end of the war, about 2,000 Jews called Albania home.

Besa is the reason why.

Besa is an Albanian cultural precept, usually translated as “faith,” that means “to keep the promise” and “word of honor” and descends from the Kanun, a collection of laws which regulate Albanian social, economic and religious lives, together with traditional customs and cultural practices of the Albanian society that originated in the year 1400. Besa is an important part of personal and familial standing and is often used as an example of “Albanianism.”

Besa is the subject of a new exhibit at the Museum, “BESA: A Code of Honor,” which tells the story of the Muslim families of Albania who rescued Jews during World War II through the incredible photography of American Norman H. Gershman.

At the opening reception of the new exhibit on March 13 at the Museum, the award-winning film documentary, Besa: The Promise (2012), was screened before a standing-room only crowd at the Museum. The screening was preceded by a marvelous reception catered by the Albanian-American Cultural Center.

The documentary tells the story of the incredible courage of Albanians during World War II through the contemporary journeys of Gershman, who is urgently striving to document the lives of Jewish rescuers before they die, and a shop owner named Rexhep Hoxha, who is desperately trying to return a set of Hebrew prayer books to the survivor his family protected some 60 years earlier during Nazi occupation.

The journeys of the two men intersect at a highly emotional and impactful crossroads as the cameras roll, making the documentary’s ending reveal “a story like no other,” in the words of one reviewer.

On March 23, the Museum will present a matinee screening of the film at 2 p.m. at the Museum Theater. Admission is $5 and RSVPs are required at RSVP@DallasHolocaustMuseum.come. The public is invited.

Rather than hiding the Jews in attics or woods, Albanians brought them into their homes, gave them Albanian names and treated them as part of the family, noted Mary Pat Higgins, Museum President and CEO.

“My father never talked about what he did for the Jews,” one Albanian shop keeper said in the documentary. “He thought it was normal.”

So warm was the welcome for the Jews, said another woman in the film, that her parents used to say, “We don’t know any Jews. We only know Albanians.”

Said Mary Pat: “In a time when religion continues to serve as a divisive force in the world, we are honored to tell the story of these Upstanders, who saw beyond religious difference and chose to act, based on their ethics—Besa—to do what was right and defy Nazi orders. This is history that moves us forward.”

Doc Vranici, Executive Director of the Albanian American Cultural Center, thanked the Museum for hosting the exhibit and for helping share a piece of hidden history of Albania—that Muslims saved Jews during World War II.

Bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south and southeast, Albania became a Communist country, following WW II where religion expression of any kind was punishable by lengthy prison terms. As part of the fall of Eastern bloc Communism in the late 1980s, Albania became a democratic Republic in 1991.

However, the effects of the transition from a centralized economy in a rigid communist state to a free market economy in a democratic republic have weighed heavily on Albania’s people, and particularly on its poor people. Despite the economy’s robust growth in recent years, almost one quarter of the population lives below the poverty level of $2 (U.S.) a day.

Albanians treatment of Jews during World War II proves “that there are far more good people in the world than bad,” Gershman said. “This little country—they have something to teach the world.”

The Presenting Sponsor of the new Museum exhibit, “BESA: A Code of Honor,” is the Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation. Community Partners include the Albanian-American Cultural Center, Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Congregation Beth Torah. Running through June 18, the exhibit is free with admission. More information at

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

For Magie Furst and her family, the lifeline to safety and freedom came through the Upstanders of Great Britain

Magie Furst

Magie Furst


The Museum’s current exhibit, A History of the Kindertransport, now through Feb. 28, features the story of Dallas resident Magie Furst and her brother, Bert, who were both saved through the British rescue operation. On Feb. 2, Magie told her story to a standing-room only crowd of 140 Museum members and visitors. This is the story she told.

In 1932, Alfred and Sida Romberg were proud parents of a daughter and son born just a year apart, living a wonderful life in the small German village of Astheim, near Nuremburg, where they owned a general merchandise store.

But a year later, following the appointment of Adolph Hitler as German Chancellor, the Romberg’s tranquil life became a nightmare. Before 1934 came to an end, Alfred Romberg was dead—a heart attack brought on by stress from aggressive perpetrators.

The Rombergs were upstanding citizens once beloved by the entire village. But all that changed when Hitler’s Nazi party came to power. The Rombergs were Jewish.

Following Alfred’s death, Sida Romberg was left alone to raise 5-year-old Magie and 4-year-old Bert. When the anti-Semitism worsened, Sida was forced to sell the store for a fraction of its value and moved the children to the larger town of Eshwege, Germany, where other family resided.

The years in Eshwege were brutal, recalled Magie, now 84.

“Those were bad years, because Hitler was in full force already. We had restrictions on going to school. We went to an all Jewish school until some of the teachers emigrated. And then after Kristallnacht (Nov. 9-10, 1938), we didn’t have school anymore…the Hitler youth, they went after us whenever we went out.

“I remember we went out to get a loaf of bread, and they took the loaf right out of my hand. They wanted to smash it on my brother’s head, but I stood in front of him, so I got the beating instead. I must have been eight years old.”

Following Kristallnacht— a series of coordinated attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria, carried out by SA paramilitary forces and non-Jewish civilians (the German authorities looked on without intervening)—Sida Romberg knew her children had no future in Germany and set out to find visas for them to leave Germany. At the time, Germany was still issuing visas to Jews and others who could prove they had relatives or a sponsoring organization in another country.

When her mother learned of the Kindertransport program, a rescue mission that took place during the nine months prior to the outbreak of the WWII, she seized the opportunity to send her daughter and son to the United Kingdom, which took in nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Nazi Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Free City of Danzig. Children of the Kindertransport were placed in British foster homes, hostels, schools and farms.

In an extraordinary stroke of good fortune, Sida Romberg received permission to work as a domestic servant in England.  The three of them prepared to leave for England together.

Saying goodbye to her grandmother, Magie said, was one of the most painful moments of her life. Her grandmother had been a source of stability and comfort, following the sudden death of Magie’s father, Alfred. Tragically, the Nazis would eventually remove her grandmother from a home for the elderly and deport her to Auschwitz, where she was murdered.

On May 23, 1939, Sida Romberg and her two children arrived in England, but once there were separated as Sida did not earn enough to support herself and her children.

Bert was placed with a wonderful family. Magie did not fare so well. “I became a cheap maid in a family headed by an abusive man,” she said. After a month of suffering, Magie was sent to an orphanage to live.

While the war years in England were tough, Magie said she, Bert and her mother were eternally grateful to the people of Great Britain. “They opened their hearts and homes to us when no other country—not even the United States—would do so,” she said.

Sida Romberg never gave up hope for reuniting the family, and in April, 1945, just a month before the formal end of WWII, the three Rombergs received visas to emigrate to the U.S.

“There is no country like the United States in this world,” Magie said.

Settling in the New York City metro area, the Rombergs thrived. Eventually, Magie would marry and accompany her husband in 1963 to the Dallas area. Three years later, Bert also moved to Dallas after receiving a great job opportunity. Wishing to be near the children she sought so valiantly to protect, Sida Romberg also made the move to Texas.

As she reflects on her rare experience as a rescued child of the Kindertransport, Magie is grateful for being spared the horrors of war even though the separation from loved ones was difficult. And, she feels obligated to share her story as a regular speaker before student groups—sometimes three and four times a week—who visit the Museum.

“We are supposed to be our brother’s keeper,” she said. “We need to make sure that children of the future never have to endure what my generation did.”

“A History of the Kinderstransport” exhibit is made possible by the generosity of Ann Donald Zetley & Florence and Howard Shapiro in Loving Memory of Martin Donald.

–Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum








For Kindertransport Families, an Inconceivable Choice

It’s an inhumane choice that no parent should ever have to face: leave a child with a complete stranger, so the child might have a chance to survive persecution and, ultimately, avoid being murdered—or keep the child and most assuredly risk his or her life.

But for tens of thousands of mostly Jewish families during World War II, this incomprehensible decision became one they were forced to make.

The Kindertransport was a British rescue operation that enabled 10,000 primarily Jewish children to escape the Nazis in the months leading up to the declaration of WW II. The initiative required a convergence of simultaneous efforts over a compressed time frame—speedy immigration policy creation, collaboration among diverse religious groups and, perhaps, most importantly, the bravery of individuals.

“A History of the Kindertransport” is the subject of the newest special exhibit at the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.  Running through Feb. 28, the exhibit is free with paid admission. On Sunday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m. at the Museum, Dallas resident Magie Furst, a Kindertransport refugee, will tell her first-hand story at a special program.

“What do you say to a child that you, a mother, are about to confide to a stranger—a child you most likely will never see again?” asked Dr. Charlotte Decoster, Education and Public Engagement Coordinator for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, at a special lecture on Jan. 16 entitled “The Last Kiss: Parents Saying ‘Goodbye’ During the Holocaust.”

For parents who applied to participate in the Kindertransport, the special immigration initiative was the only option for their children to escape persecution and almost certain death as Jewish families were rounded up and deported, ultimately, to death camps, said Dr. Decoster, an expert in the study of children hidden and rescued during the Holocaust.  In most cases, parents and their rescued children never saw one another again after the moment of separation, she said.

Through her research, Dr. Decoster, who is also an adjunct professor of history at the University of North Texas, where she received her Ph.D., discovered a painful process parents endured in separating from their children—from awareness of the option to save their children through coping with the aftermath of permanent separation from them.

At one deportation camp in southern France, where parents voluntarily turned 108 children over to Nazi resistance fighters who would see to the safety and security of the children, later research would reveal that 28 of the parents committed suicide.

“For the majority of parents who participated in the Kindertransport and similar child rescue efforts, they did what they thought was necessary—the hope of survival for their children and, by circumstance, their Jewish culture, heritage and religious practices,” Dr. Decoster said.

In most cases, rescued Jewish children were taken in by Christian families, including Catholics, and in some select cases Muslim families. While many of the children were allowed to practice Judaism, evidence reveals some efforts at converting the children to Christianity, Dr. Decoster said.

The Museum’s Kindertransport exhibit allows students to contemplate the event from the perspective of a child, offering them the opportunity to ask themselves the question—and leave behind their answers on a colored index card—“What treasured item would you bring?”

In the final analysis, the story of the Kindertransport, like many from the Holocaust, reflects themes rooted in the depravity of humanity and in its nobility, Dr. Decoster said. In the face of evil behavior that surely would have seen children murdered otherwise, “We saw Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities make a decision to act and do something to ensure the survival of children.”

Presenting sponsors for the Kindertransport exhibit are Ann Donald Zetley and Florence and Howard Shapiro in loving memory of Martin Donald. Community Partners include Catholic Charities of Dallas and the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas.

Tickets to the Feb. 2 program featuring Margie Furst are $5 each. Register online at or RSVP to and pay at the door.

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






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