‘Here To Tell’ exhibit at Calgary’s Central Library on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. The exhibit aims to educate the public about the holocaust and showcase survivor stories and experiences. (Photo by Qamar Hussaini/The Emery Weal)

Memories started flooding back for Dorothy Dove when she came across the Holocaust exhibit at Calgary’s Central Library.

“My mom is Dutch,” Dove said, fighting back tears. “She lost a lot of her friends, Jewish friends who had just disappeared. So she talked about it a lot.”

The exhibit exclusively showcases survivor stories with direct links to Calgary.

“She had friends who had made it to Canada but had also gone through the concentration camps,” Dove said.

There are 22 portraits of survivors in the Here To Tell exhibit, which is free and open to the public. The exhibit details the survivors’ experiences and showcases a short documentary.

Marnie Bondar and Dahlia Libin took the initiative to keep telling survivor stories and inform others about the Holocaust.

“Both Dahlia and I are very aware that we will soon be in a world without Holocaust survivors,” Bondar said. “And that’s a really big deal.”

Bondar and Libin wanted to commemorate and honour Holocaust survivors, their legacies, and their willingness to share these terrible atrocities.

They started this project to inform the public because anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial appear to be rising in Alberta.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of hate crimes against Jews grew by five per cent in 2020. Black and Jewish populations continue to be the targets of most hate crimes reported to police, accounting for 26 per cent and 13 per cent of all hate crimes, respectively.

Resilience and survival

Marnie Bondar, co-organizer of ‘Here To Tell’ exhibit, shares her grandmothers Holocaust experience at Calgary at Calgary Central Library on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. The exhibit aims to educate the public about the Holocaust and showcase survivor stories and experiences. (Photo by Qamar Hussaini/The Emery Weal)

The exhibit, which was initially developed for the Glenbow Museum, is now on tour to build awareness throughout North America.

“As granddaughters, we feel both a huge responsibility, but also an honour in being able to ensure that the stories and the testimony of our grandparents, and also all of the survivors, continue to be shared,” said Bondar.

The exhibit helps people learn more about the Holocaust through informative panels that came from the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Israel.

“The interviews are really impactful but also very telling of people’s resilience and survival,” Dove said. “It never left them, but it did not destroy them.”

“Maybe not exactly this, but things like this continue to happen in the world,” she said. “It’s not done. It’s not finished.”

“I think sometimes bringing it home like this reawakens again our responsibility to not let it happen again.”

The photos are shown in black-and-white portraits to emphasize the survivors and illustrate the juxtaposition between hope and despair.

The descendants hold up photographs while wearing the clothing or jewellery of those who have passed away. Their pre- and post-war lives are highlighted in a brief narrative that appears beneath their photo.

Both Bondar and Libin are Calgarians, and they’re honoured to showcase this exhibit in their hometown.

“We’re seeing it throughout our city, we’re seeing it in schools, we’re seeing it on campuses–there are a lot of Jewish students across our city who are being targeted for being Jewish,” Dahlia said. “They’re fearful of admitting they’re Jewish or wearing a Jewish star.”

Dahlia urges Calgarians to speak out against hate and show empathy towards others.

“The Holocaust didn’t start with murdering,” she said. “It started with words, and the words escalated and eventually led to the murder of six million Jewish people.”

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