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Holocaust display opens in new exhibit space at Harold Washington Library

Joe Ament (left), Reverend Mitchell Johnson (middle), and Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf (right) mark the opening of a Holocaust exhibit at a ribbon-cutting on March 6, 2018 at the Harold Washington library. | Pete Grieve for the Sun-Times

The Harold Washington Library was left with empty shelves when it digitized a collection of old periodicals that had lived on the third floor for years.

The library recently cleared out that old shelving to make room for a new exhibit space, where an educational exhibit about the Holocaust opened Tuesday morning.

“This is an example of moving out old furniture and shelving to make space for people to learn,” said Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon.

The exhibit, “The Courage to Remember,” is on loan from an international Jewish human rights organization, the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Alison Pure-Slovin, the center’s midwest regional director, explained how the display tells the story of the Holocaust with 40 panels that trace four major themes: the rise of Nazi German; the Final Solution; annihilation in Nazi-occupied territory; and liberation.

Bannon said the library is excited to present the exhibit because “sobering” displays like this can help the community reflect on history and think about the future.

The exhibit, which has been displayed in 20 countries over the last few decades, will be at the library for the next three months. Bannon said the library then hopes to bring more exhibits into the space.

The last panel explains the purpose of the exhibit: “It requires courage to remember the Holocaust: to squarely face the images of such remorseless evil. … But if the lost lives of these millions are to have an enduring meaning, we must remember and be vigilant. Then the ashes and unmarked graves of these victims can become the sanctified ground from which human hope, tolerance and moral courage will rise.”

Attendees of the ribbon-cutting experience the exhibit after the event. | Pete Grieve for the Sun-Times
Attendees of the ribbon-cutting experience the exhibit after the event. | Pete Grieve for the Sun-Times