More than 1,200 Chicagoans turned out for the Museum’s 20th Anniversary National Tour on Sunday, June 9, which featured thought-provoking programs showcasing the Museum’s role as a global thought leader in the fields of Holocaust studies and genocide prevention. Director Sara Bloomfield recognized Chicago as the Museum’s “flagship community” and thanked its members for helping to build the Museum and for continuing to provide critical support today.
Early in the day, participants gathered to pay tribute to some 100 Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans in attendance. Fritzie Fritzshall, an Auschwitz survivor, and Manny Steinfeld, who served as an Army paratrooper and intelligence specialist, received commemorative pins representing the Museum’s commitment to carry their stories—and the lessons of the Holocaust—into the future. “That is why the Museum is here today—and every day: To pledge to you that we will forever remember your experiences and teach the world the truth about the Holocaust,” said Bloomfield.
The ceremony also featured Danny Gutman, whose grandparents escaped Europe before World War II began. He spoke eloquently about his generation’s responsibility to preserve Holocaust memory: “As the Holocaust recedes in time, and increasing numbers of survivors pass away, it is up to new generations to ensure these stories, and the lessons they hold for us today, will never be forgotten.”
Museum curators and researchers met personally with survivors and their family members to review their Holocaust-era artifacts and to help them look in the Museum’s archives for information about their loved ones. These meetings brought the total number of new collections acquired during the 20th Anniversary National Tour to over 200 and the number of families assisted by Museum researchers to nearly 800.
The day’s educational programming included interactive workshops that challenged participants to think about the complicity of ordinary citizens in the persecution of Jews and other victims during World War II, as well as panel discussions about how churches and the US government responded to the Holocaust. Sessions also prompted reflection on the impact of today’s technology in spreading hate and biased information and on the role of governments and individuals alike in preventing contemporary genocide.