Friday, December 8, 2023

‘Americans and the Holocaust’ traveling exhibition coming to Troy University Library – Troy Today

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Troy University’s Troy Campus Library is one of 50 U.S. libraries selected to host Americans and the Holocaust, a traveling exhibition from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum that examines the motives, pressures and fears that shaped Americans’ responses to Nazism, war and genocide in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s.

The touring library exhibition — based on the special exhibition of the same name at the Museum in Washington, D.C. — will be on display March 20 – April 24 with an Opening Reception and Lecture being held at 5 p.m. on March 22. During the reception, TROY Professor Dr. Dan Puckett, who serves as Chair of the Alabama Holocaust Commission, will discuss the exhibit and how it applies to Alabama.

American soldiers march into Buchenwald upon liberation of the camp, April 11, 1945 USHMM, courtesy of Virginia Longest

Dr. Chris Shaffer, Dean of Library Services, said the exhibit’s visit to TROY has been three years in the making, given the delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The visit has been made possible through a grant from the United States Holocaust Museum and the American Library Association. The grant was written by Alyssa Martin Weiler, Associate Professor with Troy University Libraries.

“We have always tried to provide interesting programming, often through grants, through our libraries,” Shaffer said. “I thought this was a really good opportunity for us, our students and faculty. We are in a rural area of the state, and consequently, usually people have to drive several hours to see an exhibit like this. I am glad that our students and others will have the chance to learn more about this time in history. This exhibit and its lessons can also be extended to a wider discussion about the dangers of discrimination in general.”

Based on extensive new research of that period, Americans and the Holocaust addresses important themes in American history, exploring the many factors — including the Great Depression, isolationism, xenophobia, racism and antisemitism — that influenced decisions made by the U.S. government, the news media, organizations and individuals as they responded to Nazism. This exhibition, an educational initiative of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Library Association, will challenge the commonly held assumptions that Americans knew little and did nothing about the Nazi persecution and murder of Jews as the Holocaust unfolded.

Children aboard the President Harding look at the Statue of Liberty as they pull into New York Harbor. They were brought to the United States by Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus. USHMM, courtesy of Steve Pressman

Drawing on a remarkable collection of primary sources from the 1930s and ’40s, the exhibition focuses on the stories of individuals and groups of Americans who took action in response to Nazism. It will challenge visitors to consider the responsibilities and obstacles faced by individuals — from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to ordinary Americans — who made difficult choices, sought to effect change, and, in a few cases, took significant risks to help victims of Nazism even as rescue never became a government priority.

“There is a lot of political memorabilia from that era included in this exhibit that shows a nation that was conflicted, much like today, about what direction we should go,” Shaffer said. “You see in some of the propaganda issues of racism that are still prevalent in our society today.”

Puckett said the exhibit touches on an area that many Americans know little about.

“This is a Holocaust exhibit, but it is about the American response to the Holocaust,” Puckett said. “Many Americans don’t know a great deal about the Holocaust, but they know even less about how America responded to it.”

In addition to the exhibit, the library will host a lecture series and a workshop to aid teachers in teaching about the Holocaust. The lectures scheduled are:

  • March 20, noon – 1 p.m., Jonathan Wiesen, “International Responses to Nazi Race and Jewish Policy, 1933-1939”
  • March 30, noon – 1 p.m., Ann Mollengarden, “My Father’s Story”
  • April 3, noon — 1 p.m., Lisa Leff, “The Archive Thief: The Man Who Salvaged French Jewish History in the Wake of the Holocaust” and,
  • April 12, noon – 1 p.m., Amy McDonald, “Determined to Survive: A Story of Survival and One Teacher’s Passion to Bring That Story to Life.”

The Teacher Workshop, “Basics of Teaching the Holocaust: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Guidelines and Timeline,” will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 12 and will be led by Logan Greene, along with Amy McDonald, of Hoover City Schools through the Alabama Holocaust Education Center. The workshop is free to participants but registration is required at https://ahecinfo.org/teacher-workshop-registration-basics-of-teaching-the-holocaust-troy-university/.

For more information about Americans and the Holocaust and related programming at the Troy Campus library, visit troy.edu/libraries. To learn more about the exhibition, visit ushmm.org/americans-ala.

Americans and the Holocaust was made possible by the generous support of lead sponsor Jeannie & Jonathan Lavine. Additional major funding was provided by the Bildners — Joan & Allen z”l, Elisa Spungen & Rob, Nancy & Jim; and Jane and Daniel Och. The Museum’s exhibitions are also supported by the Lester Robbins and Sheila Johnson Robbins Traveling and Special Exhibitions Fund, established in 1990.

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