Americans and the Holocaust
National Traveling Exhibit from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum comes to Bozeman
On January 27, 2020, the world solemnly acknowledged and recognized the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the notorious Nazi concentration camp located in contemporary Poland. Dignitaries from many nations attended ceremonies in Poland, Israel, Germany, and the USA, each of which served to commemorate the victims and tragedy of the Holocaust. The passage of time has not dampened the determination to never forget such a horrendous event. In the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited the concentration camp in December 2019, Auschwitz is a place that “obliges us to keep the memory alive. We must remember the crimes that were committed here and name them clearly.” Merkel’s sentiment emphasizes the ongoing importance of critically engaging with this traumatic event. It shows how truly remembering or commemorating the Holocaust is not simply a cognitive or collective act of the mind; rather, it requires a social, public commitment to identifying and naming the atrocities that were committed against humanity.
Cultural institutions around the world have taken this cause to heart, from Yad Vashem in Jerusalem to Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris and even the Auschwitz Museum outside of Oświęcim. In addition to offering visitors space to mourn, reflect, and remember the Holocaust, these institutions notably provide valuable resources for researching the history of genocide. Their vast array of collections allows citizens opportunity to encounter and interact with a plethora of evidence that not only documents this history but encourages future generations to engage with it.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., too, plays a significant role in raising awareness about engagement. Museum resources in Washington D.C. and online showcase the ways that remembering the Holocaust is an imperative for students, educators, and broader populations. As part of its virtual museum, the USHMM website contains a resonant compilation of images, encyclopedias, and timelines for public use, but also lesson plans and research tools. What is more, the Museum Teaching Fellow program trains teachers to lead workshops, write curricula, and lead study trips to Holocaust sites on an annual basis. In turn, the USHMM has established itself as one of the world’s foremost institutions deeply committed to better understanding how and why the Holocaust came to be, while also working to confront legacies of antisemitism and genocide that persist today.
In conjunction with the American Library Association, the USHMM special traveling exhibit “Americans and the Holocaust” continues the project of remembrance and engagement with a traveling exhibit, which will kick off a national tour at the Bozeman Public Library on display from March 18th to April 25th. Based on the permanent collection in Washington D.C., this exhibit will explore relationships between events in Europe and the USA, ranging from news media coverage to refugee experiences. The self-guided exhibit will usher visitors through a variety of stories, facts, and testimony in ways that shed light on the Holocaust and America then and now.
Following a successful grant application this past summer, Bozeman Public Library’s Carmen Clark and Beth Boyson along with Gardiner’s USHMM Teaching Fellow Christina Cote have collaborated with partners at Montana State University and other regional schools to put together an exciting program of events during the exhibit’s stay at BPL. Visitors will have the opportunity to view the self-guided exhibit during the library’s regular opening hours. School groups of 7th grade and above are also encouraged to schedule visits to the exhibit, where they can engage with the educational materials on display. Some financial support may be available to offset travel costs for school groups. For more information, please see the contact information for Carmen Clark at the Bozeman Public Library below.
Americans and the Holocaust: A Traveling Exhibition for Libraries is made possible by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Library Association. The regular exhibit will be available during regular library hours from March 18th to April 25th. All special events are free and open to the public unless otherwise specified, go to bozemanmagazine.com/events to find out more.
Americans and the Holocaust was made possible by the generous support of lead sponsor Jeannie & Jonathan Lavine. The Museum’s exhibitions are also supported by the Lester Robbins and Sheila Johnson Robbins Traveling and Special Exhibitions Fund, established in 1990.
A special thanks goes out to the Bozeman Public Library for hosting the exhibit as well as MSU History and MSU Modern Languages & Literatures for their support. In addition, we acknowledge the dedicated work of the organizing committee, which helped put a program together and bring the “Americans and the Holocaust” exhibit to Bozeman.
Justin Johnson is a Senior in MSU’s Chemical Engineering program with minors in Biochemistry and a Major in German Studies. Peter Schweppe is an Assistant Professor of German Studies and History at MSU.