BOCA RATON -- The Ritter Art Gallery on Florida Atlantic University's Boca Raton campus will open its newest exhibition, Rebirth After the Holocaust: The Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, 1945-1950, on January 12, 2006.
The photo-documentary exhibition, which runs through February 11, illuminates the often overlooked history of the more than 250,000 Jewish survivors of the Holocaust 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 exhibition depicts an inspiring chapter in Jewish history. The story of the camp will forever remain a unique example of a successful struggle for Jewish and human rights," said Sam E. Bloch, president of the World Federation of Bergen-Belsen Associations and co-curator, with Jean Bloch Rosensaft, of the exhibition.
Rebirth After the Holocaust begins with liberation when, amidst the unburied corpses and open mass graves, 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 the political, social and cultural causes of displaced persons, including the struggle for emigration to Palestine.
The Bergen-Belsen camp played a 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 would serve 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 highlights the outrage among Jewish DPs interned at Bergen-Belsen, reported throughout the world by international press and newsreels.
The show highlights the flourishing press, including Unzer Shtimme (Our Voice), the first newspaper to be published by survivors, and which initially was declared illegal by the British Military Administration. There is also a close look at the publication of books and memoirs in Yiddish, Hebrew, German and English, and the establishment of libraries and exhibitions by survivor artists.
The display 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 development of the community is described -- from the religious needs served by a rabbinate to the rebirth of family life. The establishment of schools, vocational training and provision for health care and rehabilitation are detailed as well.
The exhibition concludes with the closing of the camp in 1950, by which time most of the survivors had emigrated to Israel, the United States, Canada and other countries. It records the ensuing 50 years of political activism, publications and commemorative activities through which the Bergen-Belsen survivors have continued to demonstrate their commitment to perpetuate Holocaust remembrance and education for future generations.
The exhibit will also include artifacts from south Florida Bergen-Belsen survivors and liberators.
Rebirth After the Holocaust has been organized by the World Federation of Bergen-Belsen Associations in conjunction with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum exhibition and conference, LIFE REBORN: Jewish Displaced Persons, 1945-1951 and is being presented throughout North America under the auspices of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR).
South Florida collaborators include The Center for Holocaust & Human Rights Education, FAU's College of Education; Raddock Family Eminent Scholar Chair of Holocaust Studies; Center for the Study of Values and Violence After Auschwitz, FAU's Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters; School District of Palm Beach County, Department of Multicultural Education; Palm Beach County Board of Rabbis; League for Educational Awareness of the Holocaust, LEAH; NEXT GENERATIONS; Jewish War Veterans; survivors, liberators and their families.
HUC-JIR and NEXT GENERATIONS will hold a special reception at the Ritter Art Gallery Sunday, January 22 from 2-4 pm, sponsored by Stratum Wealth Management. Guest speakers will be Jean Bloch Rosensaft, Senior National Director for Public Affairs and Institutional Planning at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institution of Religion, and Director of the HUC-JIR Museum in New York and Sam E. Bloch, Executive Member of the Administration of the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp in Germany and president of the World Federation of Bergen-Belsen Associations. Reservations are required. Please call Gerda Klein at 561-738-2806 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Nancy Dershaw at 561-862-5898 email@example.com.
The exhibit is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday 1-4; Saturday and Sunday 1-5. School groups, family education groups, and adult education groups are encouraged to schedule appointments for docent-guided tours. Call 561-297-2929.
Parking directions: Enter FAU's campus at NW 10th Ave. off Glades Road. Turn right on Volusia and park in the garage on the left and follow signs past the Wimberly Library to the Ritter Art Gallery.