Eight people who survived the Holocaust—the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis against European Jews during World War II—will tell their stories through an exhibition prepared by the museum studies program at Buffalo State and the Holocaust Resource Center (HRC) of Buffalo. Witnesses: Buffalo’s Holocaust-Era Stories opens Wednesday, November 1, and will be on display through November in the E. H. Butler Library lobby.
The names of the survivors are Julius “Joe” Diamond, Bill Eisen, Henry Joseph, Stephan Lewy, Sol Messinger, Anna Post, Mark Solarz, and Sophia Veffer. Their stories are told through displays including concentration camp inmate lists, family photographs, and artifacts. The late Joseph Bolinsky, art professor emeritus at Buffalo State, is also included in the exhibition. He was a combat engineer in WWII who worked with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration to help displaced Jews after the war.
Cynthia Conides, associate professor of history and social studies education and director of the museum studies program, worked with Noelle Wiedemer, lecturer of museum studies, and the HRC to develop the exhibition. Four graduate students— Kim Bruckman, Kelsey Reed, William Scherer, and Kristen Teeling—researched the stories highlighted in the exhibition and contributed to the layout, captions, and installation of the exhibit.
Jewish Refugees Denied Entry to U.S.
On Wednesday, November 8—the day before the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the November 9–10, 1938, eruption of violence against Jews in Germany—the exhibition’s presenters will show the documentary film Complicit: The Untold Story of Why the Roosevelt Administration Denied Safe Haven to Jewish Refugees aboard the S.S. St. Louis. More than 900 Jewish refugees from Germany were aboard the S.S. St. Louis, but were denied admission to the United States; the ship was forced to return to Europe.
One of the survivors, Messinger, is a retired doctor who lives in Western New York. Belgium accepted Messinger and his family, but they were forced to flee to France when Germany invaded. They were imprisoned in France, later escaped and, finally, were admitted to the United States where they settled in Buffalo.
Following the film, Messinger will take part in a question-and-answer session with Robert Krakow, executive director of the S.S. St. Louis Legacy Project and creator of Complicit. Krakow was instrumental in obtaining an “admission of wrongdoing” in 2012 from William Burns, the United States deputy secretary of state, for the refusal of the U.S. to admit the refugees.
“This unique research project promotes collaboration between the campus and the community,” said Conides, “and it provides our students with an opportunity to learn first-hand the importance of the work done by museums around the world.”
The exhibition and film are free and open the public. They were made possible in part by the E. O. Smith Arts and Humanities Faculty Development Award from Buffalo State, and with the cooperation of the Holocaust Resource Center, Buffalo Jewish Federation, Hillel of Buffalo, and the Buffalo News.
Photo by Kelsey Reed, HRC administrative coordinator and Buffalo State museum studies graduate student.
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