The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion presents Rebirth After the Holocaust: The Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, 1945-1950 at Cincinnati Museum Center from March 19 through April 29.
The photo-documentary exhibition illuminates the often-overlooked history of survivors in the years immediately following their liberation from the Nazis. Bergen-Belsen, a wartime concentration camp, became the largest displaced persons (DP) camp in Germany, making it the center of Jewish political and social activity among DPs in the British zone of occupation.
"This exhibit depicts an inspiring chapter in Jewish history," says Dr. Racelle Weiman, director of the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education. "After experiencing the devastation of the Holocaust, survivors quickly mobilized to take charge of their lives. This is a unique example of the successful struggle for Jewish and human rights."
Rebirth After the Holocaust begins with liberation when British soldiers encountered tens of thousands of camp inmates suffering from starvation, typhus, and tuberculosis. Yet within three days the Bergen-Belsen survivors had elected their own self-governing Jewish Committee and soon after formed the Central Jewish Committee of the Liberated Jews in the British Zone of Germany. The Committee lobbied the British on behalf of political, social, and cultural causes of displaced persons, including the struggle for emigration to Palestine.
The presentation highlights the flourishing press, including Unzer Shtimme (Our Voice), the first newspaper to be published by survivors, later declared illegal by British military authorities. Books and memoirs were published in Yiddish, Hebrew, German, and English, libraries were established, and survivor artists presented exhibitions of their works.
Community development is described, from religious needs to the rebirth of family life. The establishment of schools, vocational training, and provisions for health care and rehabilitation are detailed as well. The display also chronicles the survivors' earliest efforts to memorialize their murdered families and their quest for justice as witnesses in the Bergen-Belsen trial in 1945, the first military war crimes trial.
The Bergen-Belsen camp played an historic role in supporting the creation of Israel through illegal, as well as legal, immigration to the remainder of British Mandated Palestine. In 1947, the camp served as a clandestine training center for the Haganah (the Jewish military force in Palestine), preparing displaced persons for immigration. Until 1949, the British forbade any free departures from the camp.
The exhibition concludes with the camp's closing in 1950, by which time most survivors had emigrated to Israel, the United States, Canada, and other countries. It records the following 50 years of political activism, publications, and commemorative activities through which the survivors continue to demonstrate their commitment to perpetuate Holocaust remembrance and education for future generations.
Rebirth After the Holocaust was organized by the World Federation of Bergen-Belsen Associations in conjunction with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's conference,Life Reborn: Jewish Displaced Persons, 1945-1951.
Presented in cooperation with Cincinnati Museum Center, the exhibit is located in the Collett Gallery on the rotunda level. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The exhibit is free and open to the public. Docent tours are available by reservation for school groups on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion offers workshops, training seminars, professional in-service, and graduate courses in Holocaust Studies. For additional information or for tour reservations, call The Center at (513) 221-1875, ext. 355.