Two Special Events Coming in January

Mark your calendar for two special Museum events coming in January, 2017.

On January 24th, the Museum will hold a panel discussion on the refugee camp experience. The discussion will be a companion program to the Museum’s current special gallery exhibit, Rebirth after the Holocaust: Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, 1945-1950.

Join us for the panel discussion and tour the exhibit to learn about the revival of Jewish culture following World War II and the Holocaust, as well as the hardships refugees faced in displaced persons camps as they sought to reclaim their lives and start anew.

The refugee camp experience panel discussion will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum and is open to the public. Featured panelists will be announced later.

On Sunday, January 29th, at 2 p.m. the Museum will honor International Holocaust Remembrance Day—the day when the world comes together to honor the millions of Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Marking the liberation of Auschwitz, International Holocaust Remembrance Day allows us to reflect upon the profound tragedy of the Holocaust. We also come together to share a moment of peace and hope for the future.  The program is free.  Admissions fees for Museum exhibits apply.

 

“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

 

Join Us In September For These Must-See Events

september10September 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.

–McGuire Boles, for The Dallas Holocaust Museum

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

 

 

 

 

Special Guest Post: Support of the Dallas Holocaust Museum Showcases Values

JoleneRischBy Jolene Risch

As a society, we battle prejudice and discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, age, and religion on a daily basis. We are reminded of our humanity through social causes, the arts, museums, historical points of interest, and each other. To thrive as a business community, it is incumbent upon us to recognize there is much work to be done in the mission to empower all people.

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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”

A Global Upstander, Ret’d UN Gen. Roméo Dallaire Defied Orders to Retreat and Stood Up to Protect the Vulnerable During Rwandan Genocide

Roméo-DallaireIn 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.

Continue reading “A Global Upstander, Ret’d UN Gen. Roméo Dallaire Defied Orders to Retreat and Stood Up to Protect the Vulnerable During Rwandan Genocide”

“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, DallasHolocaustMuseum.org

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

 

A Play for the Ages: The Timekeepers Demonstrates What it Means to be Human

Actors Karl Lewis (Benjamin) and Jeremy W. Smith (Hans) bring an often forgotten story of the Holocaust to the stage.
Actors Karl Lewis (Benjamin) and Jeremy W. Smith (Hans) bring an often forgotten story of the Holocaust to the stage.

What divides us as human beings should not be stronger than what unites us. Yet, history is filled with examples where differences, especially in matters of truth and justice, have produced tragic results.

Conflict over what we share in common—and who we are as individuals—well, this is the stuff of compelling stage drama. Make the setting a World War II concentration camp during the Holocaust, at a Holocaust Museum, and the drama is groundbreaking.

Such is the case with The Timekeepers, a limited-run play now at the Dallas Holocaust Museum Theater on select nights through June 22. The subject matter is strictly for adults. Tickets are available online.

Directed by veteran Texas artistic director Joe Watts, The Timekeepers tells the story of a young-ish German homosexual and a conservative elderly Jewish man who are forced to work together in a camp, repairing watches for the Nazis.

At first, inmate #70649, a character named Benjamin played by veteran Dallas actor Karl Lewis, who wears a yellow star on his camp uniform, won’t even speak to his new colleague. Hans, inmate #2202, whose pink upside down triangle brands his character, played by actor Jeremy W. Smith, a SAG member with television credits, takes the rejection in stride, as though accustomed to it.

Fomenting—and sometimes mediating—the relationship is Capo, a petty thief and camp inmate who oversees the watch repair shop, played by actor Eric Hanson, who makes his debut theatrical performance in the production.

Benjamin was a highly regarded watchmaker in Berlin prior to his deportation. He is expert at repairing watches that Nazi guards confiscated from new camp arrivals. Hans lied about his mechanical abilities—he knows nothing about repairing watches—to avoid certain death as a failed laborer in a camp cement plant.

As is often the case in life where obvious differences overshadow commonalities upon initial meetings, time and humor eventually washes away prejudice and indifference and the two men discover each has a passion for a shared interest: opera.

The two men become friends and even rehearse scenes from an opera that they will perform at a show for the Finnish branch of the Red Cross who will be visiting the camp in a few days.

However, when the show is suddenly cancelled, their common passion for opera instantly disappears and pride and prejudice overtakes each again and erupts in a raw, disturbing, enlightening and all too familiar scene from daily life even today.

To say more about the play by Dan Clancey would spoil an incredibly impactful production by Theatre New West.

In introducing the play, truly a first-of-its-kind production for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins noted how the Museum is committed to telling the stories of all Holocaust victims.

“Homosexuals are among the Holocaust’s forgotten victims,” she noted. “The Timekeepers, while fiction, is based on a larger story and it allows us to bring the ‘forgotten’ into the light.”

The play continues Fridays and Saturdays, June 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. Talk back sessions with the director and cast will occur after Friday night performances.

By Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum

For Carl Wilkens, the only American who remained in Rwanda during the 1994 Genocide, “I’m Not Leaving” is a clarion call to action

Carl Wilkens speaks to at the Dallas Holocaust Museum on May 16, 2013
Carl Wilkens speaks at the Dallas Holocaust Museum on May 16, 2013

For 100 days in 1994, between early April and mid-July, more than 500,000 people were murdered in the East African state of Rwanda.

The Rwandan Genocide was a genocidal mass slaughter of the Tutsis by the Hutus. Some estimates of the death toll ranged up to 1,000,000, or as much as 20% of the country’s total population at the time.

The genocide was the culmination of longstanding ethnic competition and tensions between the minority Tutsi, who had controlled power for centuries, and the majority Hutu peoples, who had come to power in the rebellion of 1959–62.

Throughout the tragic ordeal, Carl Wilkens, a humanitarian aid worker from Chicago, was the only American to remain in the country. Wilkens moved his young family to Rwanda in the spring of 1990 to work for the humanitarian agency of the Adventist Church. During the genocide, he remained there with his wife, two children and two young Tutsis who would have been slaughtered had he not kept them safe in his home.

Three weeks into the genocide, Carl—at great personal risk—traveled to an orphanage near the Rwandan capital of Kigali, to bring water to the thirsty and starving children living there. Unbeknownst to him at the time, the children were also targeted for mass slaughter. However, his presence at the orphanage, along with negotiations with the would-be killers, resulted in hundreds of lives being saved.

On May 16 at the Museum, Carl Wilkens shared his incredible story in a special presentation, “Rwanda through the eyes of the only American to witness the 1994 Genocide.” More than 120 guests packed the Museum’s theater to hear the presentation, among them several survivors of the Rwandan genocide who lost loved ones to the unspeakable violence.

“The young woman and young man we kept in our home never asked me to stay,” said Wilkens, who been urged by close friends, his employer and the U.S. government to leave Rwanda immediately. “We could not leave.”

He downplayed his role in saving lives during the genocide. “I didn’t do anything by myself. I did it with others as part of a group,” he said. “None of us are God-like heroes on our own. But all of us can be an Upstander for 15 minutes.”

Wilkens said tens of thousands of lives could have been saved if the U.S. government or the U.N. would have permitted non-Rwandans to drive Rwandan citizens out of the small country to the safety of neighboring countries prior to the violence. Rwanda is a small country about the size of Maryland but densely populated with 11.7 million residents (2012 estimate).

Wilkens has written a book about the experience, I’m not leaving (ImNotLeavingRwanda.com), and a new 35-minute documentary by the same name will be released later this year.

For the past nine years, Wilkens and his wife, Teresa, have been travelling the U.S. and abroad to share their experiences with the aim of building bridges to peace.

Slowly, Rwandans are rebuilding their country and healing through the power of forgiveness, he said. He last visited Rwanda in January.

“We are not defined by what we don’t have or lost,” Wilkens concluded. “We are defined by what we do with what we have.”

–By Chris Kelley for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance; Photo by Paula Nourse