holocaust exhibit

The exhibit will be active and available to the public until Oct. 7. 

Two and a half years ago, Gonzaga University's Foley Library applied to host the "Americans and the Holocaust" traveling exhibition. This year, the exhibit has finally come to campus and arrived last Tuesday.

Out of more than 250 applicants, 50 libraries (both public and academic)were selected to host. Foley library is the only library in Washington State that was selected.

Located on the third floor of Foley in the Cowles Rare Reading Room, the exhibit opened to the public Aug. 23 and runs through Oct. 7. The exhibit features photographic reproductions of original primary source content at the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C., as well as interactive tablets and audio recordings.

Walk-in hours are on Wednesday from 3-8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. until Sept. 30, and students and community members can also schedule private tours.

Brad Matthies, the associate dean for library services at Foley, is excited for students to be able to experience the exhibit.

"The exhibit is based on a 10-year research project from [the] U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and this is what I like to call … a snapshot of the big exhibit in Washington, D.C.," Matthies said. "You have photographic reproductions and some interpretation of the data. You'll see that in graphs, but also each section has a multimedia component. Some of them have sound, so there's a little headset you can listen to [and] watch the information." 

Matthies said his favorite part of the exhibit is a portion that's based on the American Newspaper Project, which is something that the Holocaust museum in the nation's capital created.

"What they ended up doing was they crowd-sourced historians, scholars, history buffs and even college students [and] professors in every state to locate newspaper articles and clippings from the ... late 1930s into mid-1940s," Matthies said. "On that interactive tablet, you can pick any state in the Union ... and hopefully see how your hometown newspaper was actually covering ... the Holocaust." 

The four main questions that the exhibit asks guests to consider are "What did Americans know about the Holocaust?", "Did Americans help Jewish refugees?", "Why did we go to war?" and "How did we respond to the Holocaust?" Through the information provided, guests will be able to learn more about the role the United States played during the Holocaust and hopefully be able to answer the questions for themselves. 

With the exhibit being open to the wider Spokane community, students from surrounding schools will also have the opportunity to visit the exhibit and implement the exhibit into their curriculum.

Three schools are lined up to visit the exhibit and complete an activity for an assignment, as well as have lesson plans and take-home homework related to the Holocaust.

"Between those three schools, we're probably going to see somewhere between 900 and 1,000 schoolkids go through that, so I'm pretty stoked about that,” Matthies said. "It's the schools that are within the Opportunity Northeast and Center for Community Engagement Service District, so those are generally underserved schools that don’t necessarily get those kinds of opportunities." 

In addition to the exhibit, there will be an event on Sept. 8 called "Americans and the Holocaust: Remembering Our Past to Inform Our Future."  The event will be at 7 p.m. and will be free for the public to attend. There will be multiple guest speakers, including Holocaust survivor Carla Peperzak, who will be interviewed by the Holocaust Center for Humanity based in Seattle and will talk about her experience being a Dutch Jew during the Holocaust. 

Professor Kevin O’Connor from the history department will introduce Peperzak at the event. O'Connor teaches history courses on Russian civilization and Nazi Germany and emphasized the importance of learning about events like these, especially as they become more distant in a chronological sense. 

"[This is] a great opportunity for Gonzaga to model historical awareness for its students [and] to expose them to events and history that most Americans and probably most college students, especially those just entering university ... probably have very little awareness of," O'Connor said. "I think that it's important for Gonzaga to seize these opportunities whenever they present themselves." 

The Jewish Bulldogs will also be putting on an event in late September and are one of the main campus supporters of the exhibit. The event will include music and food and will be a space for students to come together and celebrate Jewish culture. 

Cassie Gittelson, a junior and member of the club, emphasized how the goal of the event is to showcase the positive aspects of the Jewish community.  

"We really want to bring to light how Jews have thrived after the Holocaust and make sure that people understand that just because these atrocities have happened to us doesn't mean that Judaism isn't thriving, and [doesn't mean] that Judaism isn't still very alive," Gittelson said. "Especially in relationship to the recent uprise in antisemitism, I think it's really important that we remember those we've lost and celebrate those that we still have and try to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again and not just to Jews, but to everyone." 

For more information on the Americans and the Holocaust Exhibit, be sure to visit the website: www.gonzaga.edu/holocaustexhibit.

Sophia McKinstry is a diversity editor. Follow her on Twitter: @sophvmckinstry.