Join us on Thursday, December 8 for a special screening of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Long Way Home, narrated by Morgan Freeman. The film will be screened in conjunction with our current special gallery exhibit, Rebirth after the Holocaust: Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, 1945-1950.
The Long Way Home tells the story of thousands of Jewish survivors as they tried to reclaim their place in the world following World War II and the Holocaust. Using rare archival footage and stills, news reels, and interviews, the film depicts the challenges refugees faced in displaced persons camps—refugee centers set up specifically for survivors of the Holocaust.
This companion film echoes the true stories of survival and liberation presented in the Museum’s current exhibit. Come see the film and tour our exhibit to witness the revival of Jewish culture in the unlikeliest of places, as well as the struggle to establish a homeland. Learn about the years of delayed freedom, uncertainty, and physical hardship before the refugees were finally permitted to begin new lives in Israel, the United States, and elsewhere.
The Long Way Home starts at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 8, at the Museum. Run Time is 120 minutes. The screening is free, but RSVP is required. Register at Eventbrite.
People often ask me about the purpose of the Dallas Holocaust Museum, and I’m quick to respond that we teach the importance of standing up to counter hatred and prejudice.
Shaping minds and positively affecting behavior is at the core of our mission.
With all that is happening in the world today, including the strong emotions and rhetoric raised by the 2016 Presidential Election, our work is more important than ever.
Next week, the Museum, the Dallas Independent School District, and Jewish day schools from around the region will host the first-ever, privately-funded “City-Wide Read and Performance” at Fair Park Music Hall.
More than 12,300 students from 153 DISD Schools and local Jewish day schools—along with 500 educators—will engage with an innovative, interactive and creative Holocaust education program based on the book, The Children of Willesden Lane. The book tells the true story of a young Jewish girl who used her musical talent to find her way in her new home after escaping the Nazis as a passenger on the Kindertransport.
The unique “City-Wide Read and Performance” project began more than a year ago when the Museum discussed the idea with the book’s co-author, the concert pianist Mona Golabek. Similar programs produced amazing results in 20 cities across the U.S. with a total of 150,000 student participants. In Dallas, the program quickly gained traction through the generosity of a Dallas resident who cares deeply about children’s education and underwrote the project cost. That donation, which was a matching gift that attracted other donors’ generosity—along with the work and dedication of event co-chairs Helen Risch and Ynette Hogue—made this program a reality.
Last summer, the Museum’s education team provided age-appropriate Holocaust education training and curricula to 500 English, History, Art, and Performing Arts teachers, librarians and administrators.
Using a curriculum centered on the book and the history of the Holocaust and its lessons, educators teach about anti-Semitism, race, religion, morality, and courage in an age-appropriate manner. The book highlights topics that touch the lives of many children today, including overcoming adversity, growing up without one or both parents and experiencing prejudice. Following Texas Education Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) requirements, the curriculum covers the geography of Europe, Hitler’s rise to power, the Kindertransport, and vocabulary including words such as “refugee,” “bystander,” and “identity.”
At the start of the school year, each DISD fifth grader received a complimentary copy of the book, excerpts of which they read during their Social Studies, English Language Arts and ESL classes. They were also encouraged to read with their families at home.
In October, students expressed their feelings about the book and the Holocaust in their art and performing arts classes.
From Monday to Wednesday of next week (November 14th to 16th), the project culminates with a performance by Mona Golabek. She will present a series of interactive concert performances for more than 12,300 students at the Music Hall.
Character education is at the core of the “City-Wide Read and Performance,” and this, in turn, impacts children’s emotional, moral and intellectual development. The program will yield huge dividends for the children in attendance, their families, and our communities.
Higher academic performance, improved attendance, reduced violence, fewer disciplinary issues, reduction in substance abuse, and less vandalism are reported as outcomes of a sustained focus upon character education.
Students have also reported feeling safer at schools in which they and their peers are taught the value of respect, responsibility, compassion and hard work. From a practical perspective, it’s simply easier to teach children how to exercise patience, self-control, and diligence.
We know from independent studies on the impact of a student’s visit to the Museum that if we can reach students at an early age, we can inspire them to become Upstanders—people who stand up and speak up for what is right, even if, at times, they stand alone.
When the British Army marched into the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on April 15, 1945, their long and traumatic days of fighting had not prepared them for the horrors they would encounter inside the camp.
The air around the camp had turned sour with the stench of 10,000 unburied bodies. Even more shocking were the tens of thousands of “walking corpses,” those who were hanging onto life by a thread due to disease and starvation.
The British had not come to Germany to liberate anyone, yet found themselves in charge of keeping alive thousands of Jews and other refugees who had been brought to the camp to die.
Jean Bloch Rosensaft was the guest speaker at the October 6 opening reception of the Museum’s latest special exhibit. She shared that both her parents and future in-laws resided at the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp and became important leaders there.
Rosensaft, an Assistant Vice President at Hebrew Union College in New York, and her father, a Holocaust survivor, organized the Bergen-Belen exhibit, using historical evidence and eyewitness accounts given by survivors, including their family members.
Even though the prisoners had been liberated and given refuge in the displaced persons camp, their troubles persisted. About 500 people died every day from typhus and malnutrition. Many could not digest their rations, while some resisted life-saving injections from Army doctors because of their experiences with poor or nefarious medical treatment in the camp.
The British were not prepared for this kind of refugee crisis. Circumstances in the camp became dire. Thanks to press coverage seen and heard around the world, news of poor living conditions within the camp reached the ears of President Harry Truman, who had taken office just three days before the liberation. Camp conditions quickly and dramatically improved.
Jewish refugees in the camp began to organize and decided to build a life for themselves, however temporary, while they waited to find a host country or migrate to Israel.
Within six weeks, the camp committee had set up a school where children were taught modern Hebrew. The focus on teaching this lingua franca gave the camp’s Jews, originally citizens of many different countries, the ability to communicate.
The committee organized cultural, religious, and political activities for the survivors, including two theatre troupes that put on plays about survivors’ experiences in the concentration camps. A form of psychological healing, noted Rosensaft, occurred during the performances when audience members’ experiences and feelings were affirmed by what performers reenacted on stage.
The camp held nearly 20 marriage ceremonies a day with open invitations, and over the lifetime of the camp, more than 2,000 children were born. The Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp not only provided refuge for survivors, it was also enabled survivors to find community and regain control over their lives.
By the middle of 1950, the majority of the Jewish refugees had migrated to Israel, Canada, South Africa, or the United States, with only a small number remaining in Germany.
The memory of the displaced persons camp lives on in Jean Bloch Rosensaft, whose exhibit depicts not only the hardships in the displaced persons camp but also the hope for the future that so many reclaimed in their temporary home in northern Germany.
Find out just how resilient these survivors proved to be. Learn about the underground organization set up by survivors to resist forced repatriation after liberation. Experience all this and more when you visit the museum’s special exhibit “Rebirth After the Holocaust: Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, 1945-1950,” which runs until January 31, 2017.
–McGuire Boles, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance
September is a busy month at the Museum. We’re saying goodbye to the heat and hello to autumn with five special events centered around the International Day of Peace—celebrated annually on September 21st around the world.
Each week in September, the Museum will host a special guest to talk about his or her experiences before, during, and after the Holocaust.
Events kick off on Sunday, September 4th, as Holocaust survivor Jack Repp tells his incredible, true story of fighting in the resistance and living in various ghettos and concentration camps, including Auschwitz, Dachau, and Kielce. Jack will speak at 12:30 PM; you don’t need a ticket to hear the speaker, but admission is required to tour the Museum.
On Sunday, September 11th, Magie Furst will talk about life as a Kindertransport refugee and how Jewish children were rescued from the Nazis and brought to the United Kingdom. Maggie will speak at 12:30 PM; you don’t need a ticket to hear the speaker, but admission is required to tour the Museum.
The Museum will officially recognize the International Day of Peace on Sunday, September 18th, with its main event of the season when it hosts three speakers who will tell their dramatic stories of endurance and survival. Survivors Max Glauben, Fred Strauss, and Jack Repp will speak at 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 3:00 PM, respectively. Museum admission will be free on this day; however, space will be limited.
Holocaust refugee Fred Strauss will return the following Sunday, September 25th, to talk about growing up in Germany and surviving the Holocaust. Fred will speak at 12:30 PM; you don’t need a ticket to hear the speaker, but admission is required to tour the Museum.
Please note that two docents will be available to provide guided tours following the speaker on September 4, 11, and 25. The tours will start around 1:45, immediately following the speaker. Docents will guide groups of 15 people each. A sign-up sheet for the tours will be provided at the front desk. Access to group tours is on a first-come, first-served basis.
On Tuesday, September 27th, the Museum will wrap up the month with a discussion on the history of anti-Semitism, hosted by Dr. Sara Abosch, Senior Director of Education at the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. “Lunch and Learn: Historical Lessons” begins at 11:30 AM and is open and free to the public. RSVP is required through Eventbrite.
Deny the Holocaust in the United States and get ready for the verbal debate you’ll have. Try denying the Holocaust in most European countries and you can count on being fined and hauled off to jail.
Between the two philosophies of protected speech, who do you think got it right?
On July 26, a panel of three experts attempted to answer that very question at the Museum’s Holocaust & Human Rights Educator Conference. The panel, “Free Speech & Hate Speech: Can They Coexist?,” included Cheryl R. Drazin of the Jean and Jerry Moore Southwest Civil Rights Counsel and the Anti-Defamation League of North Texas and Oklahoma; Dr. Rick Halperin, Director of the Embrey Human Rights Program at Southern Methodist University; and Dr. Gregory Stanton, Research Professor in Genocide Studies at George Mason University and Founder and President of Genocide Watch.
Panelists noted that Holocaust denial is just one of many forms of speech—including drawing swastikas and wearing Nazi uniforms—that Europe has cracked down on since the end of WWII. Meanwhile, in the United States, “hate speech” remains a protected form of discourse that has been upheld by major court decisions time after time.
Ms. Drazin sides with the United States on this one. She takes the “libertarian” view of free speech, insisting that “only by protecting the most offensive and heinous speech can we protect all speech.”
Dr. Halperin, on the other hand, takes a “humanitarian” view of free speech, lauding the European approach to criminalizing hate speech and shutting down hate groups. To give listeners a better idea of the two underlying philosophies, Dr. Halperin juxtaposed the American belief in a fundamental “right to life” with the declaration of a “right to life with dignity” as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. By its very nature, he argued, declaring a “right to life with dignity” would necessitate laws against hate speech.
Skeptical of both approaches to free speech, Dr. Stanton argued for a more moderate, “communitarian” approach. “Hateful rhetoric,” he says, “can be monitored at the community level.” Hateful words that cause harm to a particular community can be addressed with an emphasis on a community’s wellbeing as opposed to an emphasis on the individual’s right to make hateful remarks.
All of the panelists agreed that Americans must pay better attention to the presence of hate speech on television, on the Internet, and in everyday interactions. Even if all speech is legal, it is our responsibility to confront hate speech with countervailing speech—a principle, as Dr. Stanton pointed out, hearkens back to Thomas Jefferson.
Hateful and offensive speech should put Americans on guard to combat such rhetoric and prevent extremism from turning into acts of violence. Whether hate speech is protected or not, our mission to protect human dignity starts with our choice of words. And to that end, we should never be afraid to speak up.
If you haven’t done so, be sure to visit the Museum’s special exhibit, “Survival in Sarajevo: La Benevolencija.”Based on Edward Serotta’s book Survival in Sarajevo: Jews, Bosnia, and the Lessons of the Past, the exhibit, which runs through Sept. 18, 2016. It features photos of Holocaust survivors, Catholic Croats, Muslims, and Orthodox Serbs caught in the horror of the longest siege of a city in the history of modern warfare.
And, we hope you will join us on Sept. 18 when, in recognition of the International Day of Peace, when the Museum will host “Peace Day Dallas – Meet Three Holocaust Survivors.” The survivors will each speak—one at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Each survivor speaker will tell their story then answer your questions. Please allow at least 1 hour for each survivor. On this day, there is no charge to hear the survivors or to tour the Museum. However, space will be limited.
–McGuire Boles, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance
As journalist and photographer Edward Serotta approached one of the last places of refuge in war-torn Sarajevo—an aging synagogue run by a cross-section of Sarajevo citizens—he could hardly believe the devastation that lay before him.
Refugees of all backgrounds, ethnic groups, and religions had gathered at the Jewish humanitarian aid agency known as La Benevolencija with nothing but the clothes on their backs, while Serotta himself, a neutral party in the conflict, entered the synagogue in a flak jacket and blast helmet.
In April of 1994, retired United Nations Gen. Roméo Dallaire faced a life-and-death choice no human being should be required to make.
He could follow the orders of his UN bosses and lead his 400-plus UN peacekeeping troops in retreat to safety from a Rwandan village where they were likely to come under attack, or he and his troops could stay to protect area villagers whom they were sent to safeguard in the first place – villagers who would otherwise become victims of a genocide underway in Rwanda.
For him, Dallaire said, the choice was easy: He chose to remain and protect the villagers.
For 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.
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.
The Łódź Ghetto was a miserable place filled with truly incredible people.
Ruled by a dictatorial elder of the local Jewish Council, Łódź Ghetto was “home” to about 164,000 Jews between 1939 and 1944—second in size only to the Warsaw Ghetto, and located some 75 miles to the northeast of the Polish capital.
Łódź Ghetto was the second ghetto, after Warsaw, to open following the Nazi invasion and occupation of Poland in September 1939 and the last to be liquidated when Soviet forces finally chose to enter the ghetto in January 1945 (even though Soviet forces were but 60 miles away by January 1944).
And, the Łódź Ghetto became one of the most productive industrial centers in all of Poland, fueled by the slave labor of Jews who manufactured supplies for the German Army in the naive belief by the autocratic Jewish Council elder, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, that “our only way is work” ethic would ensure the safety of ghetto residents.
Rumkowski, of course, couldn’t have been more mistaken.
Łódź Ghetto is the subject of the latest special exhibit at the Museum, “The Faces of The Ghetto: Their Lives Are Our Lessons,” now through August 20. The exhibit, free with paid admission, features the photography of two ghetto residents initially hired with Nazi consent to take identification photos of each ghetto resident—ID required to work and receive food rations.
But photographers Mendel Grossman and Henryk Ross did more than photograph identification cards. At great personal risk, they secretly documented life in the ghetto, and their unforgettable images leave the visitor with a searing portrait of the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions of Łódź Ghetto where people slowly starved due to meager food rations (caloric intake averaged between 700 and 900 calories a day; the average person consumes about 2,000 calories per day.) Łódź Ghetto was the size of one-square mile, had no running water and no sewer system. Residents were entirely dependent on the Nazis.
Yet, the photographers also captured the nearly imperceptible sparks of hope and resilience in the faces of the suffering population. It is an exhibit not to be missed.
To help inaugurate the new special exhibit, the Museum hosted Dr. Irena Kohn, an independent Holocaust scholar from Toronto and an expert on Łódź Ghetto, on July 24. Dr. Kohn wrote her doctoral dissertation at the University of Toronto (2008) on literary and artistic accounts of the Łódź Ghetto—work that included analysis of the Grossman and Ross photos.
In rich detail, Dr. Kohn explained how ghetto songs, photographs and presentation albums—all meticulously created by inmates of the ghetto—reflected the suffering and hope of residents. The focus of her remarks was a lengthy children’s poem contained in an album, “The Legend of the Prince,” which included 17 incredible hand-painted panels with text with deep allegorical underpinnings.
“We must observe and protect everything with a critical eye, draw sketches of everything that occurs…” Dr. Kohn quoted one diarist from Łódź Ghetto, who wanted the world to know what happened there.
Life in Łódź Ghetto was focused on work. Young children underwent training to work in textile and other factories. “Children were taught as early as possible to show themselves as productive workers, so they wouldn’t be deported,” Dr. Kohn said. Convinced that the only chance for Jewish survival lay in working productively for the Nazis, Rumkowski systematically deported potential political activists or anyone who might have had the capacity to lead resistance to the Nazis, she said.
By 1943, about 95 percent of the adult population was employed in 117 workshops, which created German war supplies. It was because of this productivity that Łódź Ghetto managed to survive long after other ghettos in occupied Poland were liquidated.
In the summer of 1944, Nazi leaders began the gradual liquidation of the remaining population at Łódź Ghetto. Rumkowski, who had been promised “special treatment” by the Nazis was deported to Auschwitz with his family where, on Aug. 28, 1944, he was murdered in the gas chambers along with thousands of others.
Only 877 Jews survived when the Soviet army liberated Łódź Ghetto on Jan. 19, 1945—half of whom were children. All together, only 10,000 of the 204,000 Jews who passed through Łódź Ghetto survived the war.
Henryk Ross managed to bury the negatives to his photographs of Łódź Ghetto, and he survived the war. He dug them up after liberation and began sharing them with the world. Mendell Grossman, who hid some 10,000 negatives in the window sill of his apartment, was shot and killed by a Nazi guard during a death march from a labor camp in Koenigs Wusterhausen in April 1945. Grossman’s sister later discovered the negatives, but during her emigration to what is now Israel, the suitcase in which she carried them was confiscated by an Egyptian border guard and has not been located. The surviving photos are those of prints that Grossman had given to close friends in the Łódź Ghetto before his deportation.
“The Faces of The Ghetto: Their Lives Are Our Lessons” exhibit is made possible by presenting sponsor Frost Bank.
Community Sponsors include:
Polish American Foundation of Texas (PAFT)
Polish American Council of Texas
Jan Karski Polish School of Dallas
A special thanks to: 70 kft for graphic design and exhibit curator, Dr. Thomas Lutz.
–Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.