MARSHALL, Ill. (WCIA) – – A public library in Central Illinois is one of 50 chosen to host an exhibit called “Americans and the Holocaust.”
The traveling exhibition is the product of a partnership between the American Library Association and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It depicts what Americans knew at various points leading up to, during and after the Holocaust.
Dr. Edna Friedberg, a USHMM historian and Champaign native, says history can serve as a “lens” for the world, highlighting why atrocities around the world occur and matter.
“I really don’t think that having a personal connection has anything to do with why someone should learn about the Holocaust,” she says. “It’s a human story. It’s about what happens when neighbors turn on neighbors, when we abandon our responsibilities to each other and what happens when we take our freedoms in a democracy for granted. I always try to remind people Germany was a democracy before the Holocaust and the Nazis did not take power in a violent coup. They did political deal-making. They competed in elections. There are quiet, almost unnoticeable but no less sinister ways that hatred, division and the politics of fear can tear societies apart if we’re not on guard.”
The exhibit draws from documents, newsreels and thousands of articles from newspapers around the country, as well as public polls taken throughout the 1930s and 1040s.
“It will really challenge the way people think,” Marshall librarian Alyson Thompson said. “You know, ‘what would I have done if I had been there? Would I have spoken up?’”
Hundreds of libraries applied for the exhibit. It begins touring in 2020, and Marshall will host it for five to six weeks in early 2021.