‘Visual Narrative’ Commemorates Holocaust Education Week
Photos by Tony Hoang
They are the remnants of everyday life: letters, crafts, money orders, parcel receipts, sketches. They also serve as testimonies of existence in the many concentration, labour and transit camps throughout Europe in World War II. These materials and others comprise a moving display in honour of Holocaust Education Week, November 3-9.
The display consists of four segments of materials. The first contains correspondence, primarily from non-Jewish prisoners such as Stephanie Kunke. Kunke, an Austrian socialist, was sent first to Ravensbruck (a women’s camp), and then to Auschwitz, where she succumbed to typhus. There are also letters from prisoners who escaped from Auschwitz and survived, a letter with a handmade basket and dried flowers woven into the paper, a card from a prisoner at Bergen-Belsen, and examples of censored letters received by family members and loved ones.
Part two of the exhibit highlights documents from the Jewish Scouts of France, a French resistance organization. The Scouts responded to the Nazi occupation of France by creating a network of underground branches that helped people evade roundups and deportation, participated in acts of sabotage, and in some cases even engaged in armed combat. There are leaflets that warn of impending roundups, accounts of prison conditions, and testimonies of survivors of the Gestapo prisons in France.
Part three features propaganda leaflets dropped by the Allies in the occupied countries of France, Holland, and Belgium, or on the Axis combatants. These leaflets were created mostly by the Psychological Warfare Division of the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces.
“Courage, Ami Francaise! Nous devons être le grand arsenal de la démocratie… Rien ne fera faiblir notre détermination d’aider la Grande-Bretagne. Ca va mieux! Roosevelt, 29 décembre 1940 (Courage, French Friends! We must be the great arsenal of democracy. We will never abate our determination to assist Great Britain. It will get better!), reads one; “L’Angleterre est en train de construire 30,000 tanks – dit Lord Beaverbrook, Ministre des Armements (England is in the process of building 30,000 tanks – said Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister of aircraft production” reads another. According to J. M. Erdmann in his 1969 book Leaflet operations in the Second World War, billions of leaflets in over 26 languages were printed and disseminated by the end of the war.
Part four is dedicated to artists’ response to the war and occupation of Europe. Like the items in part 1, these often represent very personal stories. Dark drawings by the Greek-born French artist and book illustrator Tavy Notton are accompanied by captions and verses. In another set of drawings, the French cartoonist Marcellin depicts life in Paris shortly after the liberation.
In its entirely, the display illustrates in a graphic manner the ways people tried to cope with some of the hardships of war: imprisonment, occupation, living in hiding, fighting with the armed forces.
All of the items on display are drawn from the Library’s Holocaust and Underground Resistance collections. Many of the individual stories and translations of some of the materials appear on the Library’s Virtual Museum of the Holocaust and Resistance, generously funded by Madeleine and Monte Levy.
The theme of Holocaust Education Week for 2013 is “National Narratives.” We hope you will take a few moments to see some of the visual narratives, which will be on display through the rest of 2013. We also invite you to expand the narrative by studying other materials in these expansive collections. Both the exhibit and the collections can be viewed in the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections from 9:00-5:00, Monday to Friday, on the lower level of Mills Library. Please see slideshow of images below.