The Museum of Tolerance’s “The Courage to Remember” traveling Holocaust exhibit is currently on display at Pomona College’s Bridges Auditorium. The exhibit features approximately 200 original photographs and a 40-panel visual narrative of the Holocaust.
“The Courage to Remember” was created as a commemorative and educational display in 1988 by Los Angeles’ Simon Wiesenthal Center in response to a series of anti-Semitic incidents that had taken place in the San Bernardino Valley. The exhibit is the collaborative effort of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and top exhibit designers in the U.S., as well as artists from the British Museum in England. The piece serves as both a tribute in honor of the millions of lives lost and a warning that the Holocaust’s root causes still remain in today’s society.
“One of the reasons that the Nazis were successful is because too few people lifted a finger and spoke out against the evils they were committing,” said Ted Gover CM ‘99, executive director of Foundation for California and curator of “The Courage to Remember.”
“When we have some of these lessons not learned by our own society, it becomes all the more imperative and urgent that we take this exhibit to heart, and that we learn from the mistakes we made during the Holocaust,” he added. “We learn from the tragedies, so that we apply those lessons to our society and do whatever we can to foster commons in our increasingly diverse communities today whether it is here in California or elsewhere.”
Gover is a Methodist, and none of his family members were affected by the Holocaust. Rather, his involvement began when he was a student at Claremont McKenna College, where he started working with a professor to help take the exhibit throughout California. Since then, the exhibit has had great success traveling all around the globe and has received several sponsorships, including that of France’s state-owned railway company.
Gover was delighted to bring Holocaust education to Pomona after getting into contact with Sharon Kuhn, event manager of Bridges Auditorium.
“It’s a timely subject still relevant to us today. Though it may not be so prevalent in U.S. society, anti-Semitism is certainly on the rise in other places in the world like Europe and the Middle East. Learning about what took place during the Holocaust is crucial for combating [anti-Semitism],” Gover said.
According to Gover, Holocaust education is also significant for other groups experiencing religious persecution.
“We see today that there are other groups that are just as much persecuted as the Jews were, if not more. For example, arguably one of the most heavily persecuted religious groups in the world today are Christians,” he said. “You’d never know about it because Christians, for various reasons, have not spoken out with as strong of a voice as they should; it’s particularly tough for Christians in Nigeria, Iraq and Pakistan, where they are getting slaughtered.”
“We learned about what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust, but also, there have been other groups … the more that we’re aware of this, the more Holocaust education that we’re able to provide. One hopes that we decrease the chances of future groups from committing genocide again and that we can educate the people of the warning signs,” he added.
Gover said that one of the lessons people of all ages and backgrounds can take from “The Courage to Remember” is the need for having an understanding of different peoples and different communities. People can take this knowledge and use it to speak out when some of those groups are targeted because of their identity.
“The Holocaust did not begin with violence, it began with words. It began with the misrepresentation and dehumanization of the Jewish people, portraying them as people who were the root causes of the economic woes and troubles of the day in Germany and Austria,” Gover said. “When those types of canards are spread about any people, it is imperative that we, as members of the community, whether we’re a parent, a concerned citizen, or an elected leader, must be gabbing into that.”
An opening ceremony for the exhibit took place Oct. 7. Local elected officials, representatives from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, religious leaders, and Holocaust survivor Elane Geller spoke. Students and faculty from all 5Cs, as well as members of the greater Claremont community, were in attendance.
“I’ve heard many Holocaust survivors speak at other events and what I really liked about [Geller] was her confidence as she spoke,” Claremont resident Susi Avila said. “She was very feisty, and I really liked seeing her fight. The passion is clearly still in her. I will certainly never forget it.”
Avila attended with her 13-year-old daughter, who became invested and interested in learning about the Holocaust at a young age. Together they attend as many events and exhibitions concerning the Holocaust as they can, all throughout California.
“I’ve never seen some of the pictures displayed in [‘The Courage to Remember’] until now, like the one of the mother consoling her child as a Nazi holds the two of them at gunpoint. It was a very powerful image for sure. Being a mother, it was definitely hard to see a mother trying to save her child,” Avila said. “I’m proud of my daughter and her eagerness to learn more about this tragedy. The power of knowledge will keep it from never happening again.”
The exhibit will be on display through Oct. 16. It is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., excluding Saturday and Sunday.