New museum exhibition highlights women in the Holocaust
Updated: June 27, 2011 5:58PM
In documenting the Warsaw Ghetto, historian Emanuel Ringelblum made special mention of how women responded to the horrors of the Holocaust.
“The future historian will have to dedicate an appropriate page to the Jewish woman in the war,” he said. “She will take up an important page in Jewish history for her courage and steadfastness. By her merit, thousands of families have managed to surmount the terror of the times.”
The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center’s newest traveling exhibition, which opens Friday and runs through Sept. 6, pays tribute to and provides insight about the role of women in the Holocaust.
“Spots of Light: To Be a Woman in the Holocaust,” reveals the human story that lurks behind the historical account of the Holocaust experience, museum officials say.
More than two million women were murdered during the Holocaust. Their stories are brought to life through a large-scale video-art-based exhibition that conveys the strength, initiative, and courage of these remarkable women.
The exhibition emphasizes that even in the most difficult of circumstances, human beings can maintain those values which are the foundation of humanity: motherhood, friendship, faith and love.
“It is not our purpose in this exhibition to retell what the Nazis and their accomplices did to women, except to the minimum extent needed,” states a page dedicated to the exhibition on the website of Yad Vashem in Israel where the exhibition was first mounted.
“Instead, we emphasize the actions and responses of Jewish women to the situation. The visitor should bear in mind that the event at issue elevated human malevolence to pinnacles that, viewed comprehensively, seem unparalleled.“
This is the first time the exhibition has been shown in North America. More than 50 artifacts from the museum’s permanent collection will be on display.
They include never-before displayed objects such as three pieces of original artwork from the Theresienstadt concentration camp-ghetto; a mandolin-banjo from the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons camp owned by a survivor who was a member of the Auschwitz women’s orchestra; and a silver necklace found by an American GI at the liberation of Dachau.
Each of these locally collected artifacts is meant to evoke an emotional connection. A watercolor made by a child in hiding, for example, recalls the touching story of that child’s mother who would tell her fairytales of the outside world and encourage her to draw the scenes.
“The stories of these remarkable women are so beautifully and poignantly conveyed that we feel an immediate connection,” said Museum Executive Director Richard Hirschhaut. “The women featured are not mere statistics — they are our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters.”
“Spots of Light: To Be a Woman in the Holocaust” is a production of the Museum’s Division, Yad Vashem. The curator is Yehudit Inbar. Pioneer Press will have more coverage of the new exhibition over the next couple of issues.
The museum, located at 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and until 8 p.m. on Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends. Admission to “Spots of Light: To Be a Woman in the Holocaust” comes with an admission ticket.
For more information, call (847) 967-4800 or access www.ilholocaustmuseum.org.