International Holocaust Remembrance Day Exhibition

Klara Jackl, Mateusz Szczepaniak, 26th January 2018
The exhibition "Between Life and Death - Stories of Rescue During the Holocaust" opened on 24th January 2018 at the European Commission Headquarters in Brussels, coinciding with the upcoming International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The exhibition depicts the fate of Jews rescued during World War II, as well as that of those individuals who, often at the risk of their own lives, helped them. The exhibition was prepared by the European Network Remembrance and Solidarity, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, together with the Silent Heroes Memorial Centre.

The exhibition was opened during the Holocaust Remembrance Day, an event organised by the European Commission in memory of victims of the Holocaust. Host of the event, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said, "We remember the six million men, women and children whose lives were cut short when the hatred and the misguided politics of racial superiority engulfed our continent."

Honorary guests at the event were Holocaust survivors Elisabeth Drillich, Elżbieta Ficowska and Jehoshua Shochot, who spoke about their wartime experiences, which were also presented in the exhibition. Almost two hundred European Commission officials attended the event, among them being the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc as well as European Commissioner for Digital Single Market and Vice President of the European Commission Andrus Ansip.

"Looking at the past, we find inspiration in the people who are here today to bear the witness and in all those who decided against all odds to provide help and rescue risking their own life. Out of those unspeakable atrocities, and out of total destruction, a new social and moral tissue was born in Europe. This is our legacy. Today, we make a pledge as we do every day and every year, that we shall never forget", said Commissioner Avramopolous. 

The exhibition, "Between Life and Death - Stories of Rescue During the Holocaust”, presents individual stories of rescue from nine European countries - Croatia, Denmark, France the Netherlands, Lithuania, Germany, Poland, the Unraine and Hungary.

Deputy Director of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews said: "In this exhibition, we present stories of Jews being rescued - told from the perspective, not only of those being rescued but also from that of the rescuers, in order to show their courage, their efforts and their dilemmas, represented in equal measure."

The discussion with the Holocaust Survivors was led by Prof. Jan Rydel, Chairman of the Steering Committee of the European Network Remembrance and Solidarity.

"I have never seen a photograph of either my mother or my father - no one. Everything was lost in the ghetto. My birth certificate is a silver spoon", said Elżbieta Ficowska, who was rescued when she was six months old. In 1942, she was taken out of the Warsaw ghetto in box, into which was placed a silver spoon engraved with her name and her date of birth. On the "Aryan side", she was cared for by Stanisława Bussold

 Read more about Elżbieta Ficowska's story

Elisabeth Drillich survived with her parents near Chambon-sur-Lignon in France, to where they had escaped from Belgium when it was occupied by the Germans in 1940. Around 2,500 Jews found shelter in that locality, in the south-eastern part of the country. Many local residents became involved in providing help, among them being Pastor André Trocmé and his wife Magda. Thanks to false papers, Elisabeth hid in many places until the War ended for her in 1944.

Together with his mother and brother Chaim, Jehoshua Shochot lived in Telšiai, a small town in Lithuania. After the outbreak of war, the family found itself in a ghetto established by the Germans. From the time of its liquidation at the end of 1941, they  went into hiding. Their pre-War nanny, Domicėlė Pagojutė, helped them. She organised a series of hiding places in which they stayed util the War ended for them in 1944.

View the opening of the Exhibition

The exhibition "Between Life and Death - Stories of Rescue During the Holocaust” can be viewed in Charlemagne, headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels until 6th March 2018, the European Day of the Righteous.

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Authors of the Exhibition: Dr. Martyna Grądzka-Rejak (ENRS) and Klara Jackl (POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews), in cooperation with Marta Ansilewska-Lehnstaedt (Silent Heroes Memorial Centre)

Academic consultants: Dr. Aleksandra Namysło, Prof. Jan Rydel (ENRS), Dr. Piotr Trojański (ENRS), Prof. Johannes Tuchel (Silent Heroes Memorial Centre)

Organisers: European Network Remembrance and Solidarity, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews and Silent Heroes Memorial Centre in German Resistance Memorial Centre Foundation

Financial support: Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Federal Government Representative for Culture and Media (BKM)

Partners: Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, Memorial of Chambon-sur-Lignon, Mémorial de la Shoah, Danish Jewish Museum, "Tkuma” Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies, Castrum Peregrini, NIOD, the Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Museum of the Second World War.

English translation: Andrew Rajcher