Shanghai: A Refuge During the Holocaust chronicles the little-known story of the thousands of Jews who sought and found refuge in wartime Shanghai. Based on the oral histories of Shanghai-landers now living in Vancouver, the exhibit tells their stories through the use of documents and photographs. Shanghai: A Refuge During the Holocaust presents the compelling history of this special sanctuary and of those who survived through resolve, adaptability and resourcefulness.
Janusz Korczak was one of the world’s first advocates of children’s rights. On August 6, 1942 he became a heroic figure. On that day, this Polish-Jewish doctor, writer and educator was forced to gather together the two hundred orphans under his care in the Warsaw Ghetto and report for deportation. Refusing all offers for his own rescue, he led them with quiet dignity to the tram that would take them to the Treblinka extermination camp, where he perished with them.
Vancouver’s Schindler Jews presents the story of Oskar Schindler who rescued over 1000 Jews during the Holocaust, through the unique perspective of four Schindlerjuden who later immigrated to Canada and found new lives in Vancouver. The exhibit is based on the personal narratives, documents, photographs and artefacts of the four Schindler survivors – Else Dunner, Bernard Goldberg and Esther and Leon Kaufman – ensuring that their unique voices will not be lost.
Although many early histories of the Holocaust portrayed Jews as passive victims, recent accounts have contributed to a more nuanced representation of Jews as active resisters.
Jewish resistance assumed many forms and took place at the various moments and settings of the Holocaust. As Nazi power expanded across Europe, Jews responded to changing circumstances. They participated in resistance activities in ghettos, in slave labour camps, and even in concentration and extermination camps.
In addition to armed resistance, Jews acted collectively and individually in a variety of ways. They attempted to survive and help others survive in the face of annihilation. They tried to perpetuate their culture in the face of attempted erasure and struggled to maintain their dignity in the face of dehumanization.
The significance of such acts of defiance must be considered against the obstacles that made resistance to the Nazis both difficult and dangerous. Given the conditions Jews faced, perhaps what is surprising is not how little resistance there was, but rather how much.
The five individuals profiled in this exhibit demonstrate the range of responses to Nazism and the many ways in which Jews sought to maintain their humanity.