Bergen Belsen survivor speaks at opening of photo exhibit

The following article was submitted by Varun Verman, a student at York’s Schulich School of Business.

Last Tuesday evening saw the opening of Rebirth after the Holocaust: The Bergen Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, 1945-1950, an exhibition that has travelled across many different parts of North America, to various university and commercial art galleries and is now on display at the Samuel J. Zacks Gallery, 109 Stong College.

The Bergen Belsen exhibit is managed by Jean Bloch Rosensaft and her father Sam E. Bloch. Rosensaft spoke about the significance of the emergence of the people from the ruin as a symbol of the liberation and rehabilitation of the Jewish community and their transformation. She thanked York University for helping organize the exhibit and said, “The display not only taught history, but also highlighted the human values of tolerance, respect and hope.”

Bloch, a survivor of the camp and the youngest member of the Displaced Persons camp committee, talked about the time when freedom actually dawned, with support from the British and Canadian armies, and how the uprooted survivors had to rebuild their lives with determination and dedication. The people had to revitalize their social, cultural and communal life and make a completely new start, he said. “We need to remember that the terrible catastrophe that befell us must be prevented from happening ever again to anyone,” Bloch said . “We could be bitter but we are not. Rather we stand for human rights, tolerance and universal brotherhood.”

busemannBernd Busemann, left, minister of culture of Lower Saxony, Germany, spoke about the success of the exhibit in North America, and expressed his appreciation to Bloch, who will travel to Germany for a major display at the site of the camp. Busemann spoke about the hate, despair, emotions and anger that the entire Jewish community felt when attempts were made to remove and bury the physical sites where the crimes were committed. He also talked about the various steps undertaken by the German government to memorialize the Bergen Belsen Camp, such as establishing a new documentation centre and museum. He ended his speech with a paraphrase of an old Jewish proverb, “the longer a blind man lives, the more he sees.”

The exhibit, which runs until Dec. 3, is presented by York’s 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, e-mail or see story in the Nov. 9 issue of YFile.