There’s a new virtual photography exhibit from the Montreal Holocaust Museum, called Witnesses to History, Keepers of Memory which highlights the life stories of 30 Holocaust survivors.
All of these survivors are now based in Montreal and have shared their testimonies with school groups and visitors of the museum for almost 40 years.
In this new exhibit, each survivors’ story is told through a triptych that includes their portrait, a photo in their home, and an image of a meaningful personal object.
Through featured audio clips, visitors can also hear survivors describe the significance of their cherished item. Each object shows the range of personal stories of each survivor during the Holocaust.
In the exhibit you’ll hear of Mila Mesner’s story. Her family found themselves without papers in Bucharest (Romania) and in order to leave Europe they had to go to the Polish consulate to obtain documents required for their departure.
It seems that luck was on Mesner’s side that day as the consul posted to Bucharest knew her parents and agreed to help her family. On the passport she was given, which is the object Mesner chose for the exhibit, one can see he indicated that he knew her personally which enabled her to leave Europe in 1947.
“The heroism of these individuals lies not only in their survival during the Holocaust, but also in their efforts to repair the world and educate the next generation about the dangers of racism and anti-Semitism,” said Daniel Amar, Executive Director of the Montreal Holocaust Museum, in a statement. “Survivors founded our Museum in 1979, and they remain at the heart of our institution today to ensure that we remember, learn, and act.”
You can also hear from Tommy Strasser who had to rebuild his life on his own after both his parents had been killed in the camps. He managed to immigrate to Canada with the help of the War Orphans’ Project, all due to his friend for falsifying the age on his travel card to 18 (he was actually 22) in order to make him eligible as a war orphan. Luckily, he was chosen and made a new life in Canada.
And there’s Will Glaser, who chose a piece of the memorial stone he brought back with him from the Belzec killing centre (occupied Poland) where his mother and several of his brothers and sisters were killed in 1942. Glaser visited the site on two separate occasions with the hope of finding where his loved ones were buried. When their mass grave was finally identified he was able to recite the mourner’s Kaddish for them, paying homage to his family.
Read and listen to more of these powerful stories here. The exhibit is permanent and currently available for any to access.
All photos in the exhibit are taken by Montreal photographer Stéphanie Cousineau. The photos are courtesy of the Montreal Holocaust Museum.
Clarrie Feinstein is a journalist based in Toronto where she is currently a reporter for Toronto Star. She previously was a reporter for Metroland Media where she covered education in Peel Region. Her other work can be seen in Daily Hive, Business Insider, Salon, and Bedford + Bowery. Clarrie earned her M.A. in journalism from New York University.