December 8 Film Night: “The Long Way Home”

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.

 

Amid Heated Election Rhetoric, ‘City-Wide Read and Performance’ Teaches DISD Fifth Graders R-E-S-P-E-C-T

willesdenlaneBy Mary Pat Higgins

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.

Mary Pat Higgins is President & CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. Email mphiggins@dallasholocaustmuseum.org

 

 

“Rebirth After the Holocaust: Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, 1945-1950,” Newest Special Exhibit New Open for Visitors

jeanrosensaft
Jean Bloch Rosensaft

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

 

Free Speech & Hate Speech: Can They Coexist?

Human Rights PanelDeny 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

 

 

 

 

In Sarajevo, Hope Emerged Among the Diversity of the Human Spirit

ESsarajevoAs 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.

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On April 1, Join Us for the Kick-off of Big D Reads With 2016 Featured Title “The Diary of A Young Girl”

big_d_reads_anne_frank_posterJoin us at the Museum this Friday for the kickoff of Big D Reads – a read-in event from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at which community leaders will read selected passages from this year’s featured title, Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl.

A community service project throughout the month of April, Big D Reads seeks to engage the Dallas community in a city-wide reading experience as well as special events such as educational discussions and read-ins that tie into Anne Frank’s inspirational story.

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Hope for Humanity: Human Rights Initiative of North Texas

hrilogoHuman rights is the reason America was created, say Betsy Healy and Bill Holston of the Human Rights Initiative (HRI) of North Texas.

The right to asylum—under which another sovereign authority, such as the United States, may protect a person persecuted by their country—is one of the most important and urgent of rights. The right belongs to all people under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by world governments in 1948 in response to the Holocaust.

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Join us for Spring Break at the Dallas Holocaust Museum

annefrankeventbritegraphicExplore and learn with family-friendly activities throughout Spring Break in conjunction with our latest special exhibit, “Anne Frank: A History for Today.”

Each program features readings from The Diary of a Young Girl, followed by a short discussion and learning activity. The Spring Break programs will be held Mondays through Thursdays, March 7 through 24 at 1:30 p.m. Be sure to RSVP.

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From the Safety of the Secret Annex, Anne Frank Reveals Life-Changing Lessons for All of Us Today

anne_frankBefore the world met the bright, optimistic girl named Anne Frank, she and her family lived in complete secrecy behind a bookcase for two years, hiding from Nazi soldiers and sympathizers.

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!”

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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.

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