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Providing a glimpse into the past injustices, sacrifices, and heroics

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Introductory Room

This area contains pre-World War II photographs of Holocaust survivors who immigrated to St. Louis or relatives of St. Louisans who perished or suffered under Nazi oppression. These images introduce the concept of the “mosaic” of victims of the Holocaust, representing various ages, nationalities and geographic regions, professions, levels of religious observance and lifestyles. These portraits vividly remind the visitor that before these people became victims they were individuals leading vibrant and widely diverse lives.

Jewish Life Before The Holocaust

Exhibit Area I

Prior to the Holocaust, many Jews in parts of Europe assimilated into the life of their dominant culture, and maintained a strong national identity to their respective countries.

The first exhibit area includes:

  • pre-World War II artifacts and photographs representing secular, religious and cultural life of European Jewry
  • a video presentation, including rare footage of Jewish life in Europe before World War II
  • a map of world Jewish population centers in 1933
  • a timeline of Jewish history in Europe before World War II
  • a painted ceiling evoking the interior of a Polish synagogue
Hebrew school class from Hungary

Hebrew school class of Gustav Schonfeld* (seated directly beneath the rabbi), Munkacs, Hungary, 1939. Schonfeld is the only person in the photograph known to survive the Holocaust.

Wedding photo of Elias and Theresia Burger, Vienna, Austria, 1917. Theresia survived the Holocaust in hiding in France and Italy with her son, Harry. Elias was deported to Auschwitz and murdered.

Hebrew school class from Hungary

A Jewish wedding procession with musicians in Austria, 1934.

Lieutenant Walter Liebman (center) with two fellow officers who served in the German Infantry during World War I.

The Rise of Nazism In Germany

Exhibit Area II: 1933-1939

Tracing the rise of Nazism in Germany, the second exhibit area focuses on events that led up to the Holocaust. The exhibits examine the use of propaganda, the perversion of science to justify anti-Semitism, the establishment of the Nuremberg Laws, and the introduction of anti-Semitism in German school curricula. The ever worsening situation culminated in the pogrom of November 9-10, 1938 (Kristallnacht).

This second exhibit area includes:

  • a review of post-World War I political and economic conditions that lead to the rise of Nazism
  • photos of early Nazi activities, including rallies and harassment
  • information about the “Aktion T4”, and the systematic murder of the mentally and physically disabled
  • a panel examining anti-Semitism in the United States, the controversy of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and two fact-finding missions (1933 and 1935) to Germany by St. Louis Rabbi Ferdinand Isserman

Stormtroopers hold signs to intimidate shoppers during a boycott of Jewish businesses, April 1, 1933.

An illustration from The Poisonous Mushroom, an anti-Semitic children’s book, published in 1938.

A children’s primer, Von Drinnen Und Dransen, with illustrations of Nazi flags and banners.

Early World War II & The Beginning Of The Holocaust

Exhibit Area III: 1939-1941

After the Nazi invasion of Poland and the beginning of World War II, living conditions for Jews worsened. Many Jews, unable to flee to safety, were forced into overcrowded and unsanitary living quarters known as “ghettos” where many perished from starvation and disease. Others were interned in concentration or slave labor camps where they were literally worked to death.

The third exhibit area includes:

  • photographs and artifacts from various ghettos and camps
  • a model of the Lodz ghetto, the second largest ghetto in Poland, where many Holocaust survivors who immigrated to St. Louis came from
  • information on resistance efforts, including passive, spiritual and armed resistance
  • a case displaying a prison uniform, badges used to identify other victim groups and other camp artifacts.

A soup bowl on display from Camp-de-Gurs. If the bowl were lost or stolen, the inmate would be unable to obtain food rations and risked starvation.

Model of the Lodz ghetto – survivors in St. Louis were interned in the Lodz ghetto

The Holocaust & the Final Solution

Exhibit Area IV : 1942-1945

After the “official” implementation of the Final Solution to murder all European Jews, the transport of the Jews to the East increased dramatically. Many died from starvation and disease. At six death camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau, Jewish prisoners were asphyxiated in gas chambers and burned in crematoria. In all, more than 6 million Jews, including 1.5 million children, perished during the Holocaust.

The fourth exhibit area includes:

  • an interactive map detailing the magnitude of the Nazi concentration camp system and the railroad system that was used to transport Jews. More than 10,000 camps were in operation across Europe between 1933 and 1945 (fig 11, 13)
  • a brief video on the Final Solution (fig 11)

Einsatzgruppen (Special Action Group) murdering approximately 28,000 Jews in Vinnitsa, Ukraine; September 1941

A brief video on the Final Solution

Prisoners from Dachau on a death march in Gruenwald, Germany, April 29, 1945. Leo Wolf, a co-founder of the HMLC, is seen walking with friends in the photo.

Annually, thousands of students and visitors use the camp system map donated in 1999 by Margaret* and Irvin* Dagen

Liberation & Rescue

Exhibit Area V

In 1945, as Nazi Germany was losing the war of expansion, the Nazis continued the war against the Jews and accelerated the mass murder of Jewish prisoners. As American and Soviet troops liberated prisoners, they were horrified by the unimaginable cruelty and death of the camps.

The fifth exhibit area includes:

  • photographs taken during the liberation of camps, including photos taken by a delegation of prominent photojournalists, led by Joseph Pulitzer from St. Louis, April, 1945.
  • photographs and information on heroic rescue attempts by individuals and countries
  • a display on the Nuremberg Trials, which set the precedent for later war crimes tribunals

A book of concentration camp and ghetto songs printed shortly after liberation in 1945.

Whitney Harris (Of Blessed Memory), a St. Louis attorney, cross examines a Gestapo witness during the Nuremberg Trials.

Jewish Life After The Holocaust

Exhibit Area VI

Following the end of World War II and their liberation from Nazi persecution, Holocaust survivors began the long process of rebuilding their lives, families and communities. Some tried to return home while others remained in displaced persons camps, often for many years. Many immigrated to the “new” state of Israel, established in 1948, and fought in its War of Independence. Others came to the United States. It is estimated that more than 300 Holocaust survivors immigrated to the St. Louis region after the War.

The sixth exhibit area contains:

  • photos and artifacts about the displaced persons (DP) camps
  • a brief history on the establishment of the state of Israel
  • information about the immigration of Holocaust survivors to the St. Louis area
  • a brief video featuring commentary from Holocaust survivors and witnesses (The video includes footage documenting racism, neo-Nazi activities and genocidal atrocities.)

After the war, many survivors remained in displaced persons camps as they began to rebuild their lives. Many of them married and began families in the camps.

Ann Lenga, a Holocaust survivor, with her daughter, Margi, in St. Louis, 1953.

A ticket for passage on a ship that brought Mendel Rosenberg to the U.S. in 1947.