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

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!”

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

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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Factual Survey leaves indelible mark—but for the right reasons

german-concentration-camps-factual-survey-1945-2014-002For the first seven minutes of German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, the audience sat in communal silence.

Literally, not one sound could be heard in the Cinemark 17 Theater in North Dallas as the official British documentary film on the Nazi concentration camps of WWII began to play.

Before the film, Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins warned the 325 people in attendance at the Aug. 3 special screening that the images we were about to watch would be “full of the painful truth” about the atrocities that happened at Nazi concentration and extermination camps—the “starvation, cruelty, murder, misery and suffering . . .”

It was most certainly painful. And, it is why silence seemed the appropriate response to this film: words cannot accurately capture this depiction of man’s inhumanity to man.

Incorporating the work of British, American, and Soviet camera crews, the film documents the liberation of concentration and extermination camps by the Allies as the war in Europe came to a close in April and May 1945.

Alfred Hitchcock, a one-time treatment advisor on the film, suggested the filmmakers avoid tricky editing to enhance the film’s authenticity and credibility. What we are left with are long takes of the most gruesome scenes from the Holocaust: piles of human remains, ashes from the crematoria, and the signs of lives once lived—bags of human hair, wedding rings, spectacles, and toothbrushes.

Footage accumulated for the film would be used in the postwar prosecution of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg and Lüneburg.

Postwar politics and an urgent need to begin the rebuilding of war-ravaged Germany and Britain overtook the film’s production timeline and reflective script.

Consequently, the film was shelved, although excerpts from it were released as part of other Holocaust documentaries after the Imperial War Museum took possession of the rough cut in 1952. Footage, for example, was used in the 1985 documentary, “A Painful Reminder.”

After funding was secured, work to restore and complete the film began in earnest in December 2008. Factual Survey premiered at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival. A documentary about the making of the film was later shown on HBO (under the title Night Will Fall) on Jan. 27, 2015, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

In a brief Q&A following the Cinemark screening, local Holocaust survivor Max Glauben said the film depicted the life he experienced in concentration camps, but the true reality of the atrocities, he said, remain difficult to convey. Max said he would rather focus on the positive lessons he learned as a survivor while reminding the world that evil is ultimately a choice made by each person individually.

The film screening was made possible by Cinemark Theatres, which donated the use of the theater, Academic Partnerships and, in part, with a grant from Humanities Texas, the State Affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Join us on September 10 at 5:30 p.m. for the opening reception and lecture for the upcoming special exhibit “Holocaust by Bullets.” Also, please plan to join us on October 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

For the Chief Rabbi of Poland, the “Spark of the Jewish Soul” Reignites the Jewish Community in Country Decimated by the Holocaust

Rabbi Michael Schudrich
Rabbi Michael Schudrich

In 1939, Poland was home to a thriving Jewish community of 3.5 million people—folks who made their households and livelihoods in cities, villages and farms across the vast country.

Six years later, barely 300,000 Jews survived in Poland.

The Holocaust—and the Nazi’s Polish-based death camps—resulted in the murder of 3.2 million Jews from Poland, some 90 percent of the country’s Jewish population.

Repercussions of this crime against humanity continue today, but there is renewed hope in Poland for Jews. And Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the American-born Chief Rabbi of Poland, may well be the No. 1 reason why.

Rabbi Schudrich was the special guest of the Museum’s Upstander Speaker Series on June 4 at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas. Appointed Chief Rabbi of Poland in 2004, he has played a central role in the country’s Jewish Renaissance. Indeed, since the fall of Communism in 1989, a growing number of Poles have learned of their Jewish roots, and Rabbi Schudrich is the person they often turn to for guidance.

“We cannot change the number of Jews who were murdered in Poland,” Rabbi Schudrich told the crowd of more than 250 at the JCC. “But, we can change the number of Jews who are out there and have yet to discover their identity.”

Today, about 25,000 Jews call Poland their home. As Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Schudrich spends much of his time counseling people who have discovered—or who are trying to determine whether—they are, in fact, Jewish.

After World War II, most Jews living in Poland who survived the Holocaust left the country—many to Israel—and those who remained were forced to hide their Jewish identities under Soviet Communism.

For Jews living in Poland, “From 1939 to 1989, everything that happens tells you it’s not safe to share your Jewish identity with your children and grandchildren,” Rabbi Schudrich said. “ But in the last 26 years (since the fall of Communism), we’re seeing these children and grandchildren have their hidden secrets now revealed because it is safe—that they are, in fact, Jewish, and there is great hope and optimism.”

These revelations of newly found Jewish identity—Rabbi Schudrich called it the discovery of “the spark of the Jewish soul”—are transforming lives and, albeit slowly, Poland itself. Rabbi Schudrich was one of three Jewish leaders in Poland recently awarded prestigious Bene Merito Medals in recognition of their actions in promoting Poland abroad.

Born in New York City, Rabbi Schudrich attended Jewish day schools there and graduated from Stony Brook University in 1977 with a Religious Studies major and received an MA in History from Columbia University in 1982. He received Conservative smicha (rabbinical ordination) from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and later, an Orthodox smicha through Yeshiva University from Rabbi Moshe Tendler. He served as rabbi of the Jewish Community of Japan from 1983 to 1989 before moving to Poland in 1992.

A rising level of anti-Semitism is an issue throughout Europe, Rabbi Schudrich said, but Poland is making great strides in building strong Jewish-Catholic relationships. “I prefer to emphasize what’s working in Poland,” he said. “Good things are happening, and I am an optimist at heart.”

Be sure to join us for our next Upstander Speaker Series on October 15 when Lieutenant-General Roméo Antonius Dallaire, a Canadian humanitarian, author and retired senator and general, will be the special guest. Dallaire served as Force Commander of UNAMIR, the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda between 1993 and 1994, and attempted to stop the genocide that was being waged by Hutu extremists against Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

The Upstander Speaker Series is sponsored by Real Time Resolutions and is supported by The Dallas Morning News, G&H Ventures, LLC and Humanities Texas. This project was made possible through a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


And, don’t miss out on seeing the Museum’s Special Exhibit, “The Wartime Escape,” which chronicles Margaret and H.A. Rey’s (creators of Curious George) escape from the Nazis. The exhibit closes on June 20.

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