Holocaust photo exhibit examines Bergen-Belsen camp

busemannBernd Busemann, left, minister of culture for the government of Lower Saxony, Germany, will speak at the official opening of the photo exhibit Rebirth After the Holocaust: The Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, 1945-1950, today at 6pm. The exhibit at the Samuel J. Zacks Gallery, 109 Stong College, is making a one-month stop at York to commemorate Holocaust Education Week.

Running through Dec. 3, the exhibit features numerous archival photos and provides vivid accounts of Jewish strife as well as stories of hope in the aftermath of one of the world’s worst atrocities.

trainRight: Teen-aged Holocaust survivors depart from Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp for Palestine. Photo courtesy of the Josef Rosensaft Bergen-Belsen Archive, Yad Vashem, Israel.

“In April 1945, the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen was liberated by the British Army. Virtually overnight, the site was transformed into a temporary ‘home’ for Jewish displaced persons who then began the process of connecting with surviving family and friends, fought for self-government, and began new lives after the Holocaust,” explains Professor Martin Lockshin, director of the Centre for Jewish Studies at York.

“If we are to learn from history, education about the Holocaust is crucial,” says Lockshin. “Such education can be conducted in many ways. Often it is done by teaching about the horrors of the Holocaust – the unthinkable cruelty, the inhumane behaviour of the perpetrators or the dehumanization of the victims.

“This exhibit teaches about the Holocaust in a different and complementary way – by showing the way people rebuilt their lives,” he says. “It is a story of the resilience of human beings, of hope and of courage.”

The Germans established Bergen-Belsen as a camp during the latter stages of the Second World War for civilian internees but it soon advanced into a full-fledged concentration camp. Located near Hanover, Germany, its inmates suffered unspeakable horrors. With liberation in April 1945, survivors confronted a second, unrestrained wave of catastrophe – during the first month of freedom, 500 persons died daily from starvation, typhus and deprivation. Nevertheless, survivors began to take steps at restoring their lives.

The exhibit is presented by the Centre for Jewish Studies and The Holocaust Centre of Toronto as part of the 24th Annual Holocaust Education Week of the United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto. For further information about Zacks Gallery and upcoming exhibits contact Lisa Lurie or Shannon Spence at ext. 33055 or e-mail zacks@yorku.ca.