Without hope you didn’t survive…
I photographed that quote in the summer of 2014 while viewing a traveling exhibit on the Holocaust, “Transfer of Memory,” at the Steele County History Center in Owatonna. The singular summary word hope themes portraits and accompanying stories of Minnesota Holocaust survivors.
“Transfer of Memory” was, and remains, one of the most powerful exhibits I’ve ever viewed. It is the personal stories, paired with portraits, which imprinted upon my heart and spirit the utter brutality, the unfathomable cruelty of the Nazis against Jewish people.
Today, just days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, the date in 1945 marking the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi’s largest killing center and concentration camp, I am reminded of the survivors featured in that traveling exhibit.
I am reminded, too, of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Six. Million.
Recently, I read three books of historical fiction about young men and women imprisoned in concentration camps. These books by Heather Morris—The Tatooist of Auschwitz, Cilka’s Journey and Three Sisters—are difficult to read. Heart-rending. Awful. Yet, with that underlying theme of hope accompanied by incredible strength. Like the “Transfer of Memory” exhibit, they imprinted upon my heart and spirit the utter brutality and unfathomable cruelty of humankind.
When I read of current day antisemitism and hatred directed towards other individuals because of their skin color, ethnicity, religion, etc., I find myself wondering, “Why?”
FYI: Click here to learn more about the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas and its “Transfer of Memory” exhibit. Please consider bringing this exhibit to your community. Click here to read my 2014 post about the exhibit in Owatonna.
“Transfer of Memory” is currently on exhibit in Jones Commons at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis until February 28. Special events are also planned. A forum with a Holocaust survivor is set for 10 am Sunday, February 12. And at 4 pm Sunday, February 26, Janet Horvath performs on her cello and celebrates the release of her memoir, The Cello Still Sings: A Generational Story of the Holocaust and of the Transformative Power of Music. Click here for more information about the exhibit and events at Plymouth Congregational.
© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
I go through periods of reading stories like these, both truth and fiction, and then periods where I’m off. Sometimes, the things humans do to one another feel to much to bear, as much as I believe we’re compelled to stand witness.
I’m the same way, going through periods of reading on certain topics. I reaffirm your statement that “we’re compelled to stand witness.”
A traveling exhibit… I’d like to see it come back to our area someday and attend it. This history cannot be forgotten.
The exhibit was at St. Olaf in 2021. I was unaware of that until I researched for this post.