NOTE: This exhibit is not currently traveling.
In fall of 2014, the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education partnered with Cincinnati Museum Center, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and local collector Steven Cassidy to create an original exhibition commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and of thousands of other Nazi camps.
Debuting at Freedom Center from Jan. 29 through May 27, 2015, Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later led visitors to discover stories of humanity and survival within the Auschwitz concentration camp, bringing together powerful local Holocaust survivor accounts with never-before-seen artifacts and rare images from Cassidy’s collection, as well as from the American Jewish Archives, Klau Library and the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education. The exhibition was brought to Cincinnati through the generous support of The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati and The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation.
Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later focused chiefly on the stories of two Holocaust survivors: Werner Coppel and Bella Ouziel. Originally from Germany and Greece before their imprisonment at Auschwitz, Coppel and Ouziel are now each residents of Cincinnati. The exhibition offered video accounts of their lives before Auschwitz as well as their stories and memories of life within the camp. Video interviews also traced their experiences during the camp’s liberation and the lives that they built in the wake of their harrowing imprisonment.
Coppel and Ouziel’s moving accounts were presented alongside personal and perpetrator artifacts that revealed the dual nature of humanity and inhumanity that existed within the concentration camp universe. Visitors encountered stories of unspeakable atrocities as well as stories of resistance and survival. By giving a voice to survivors and eyewitnesses of the camp, Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later provided context for the camp and served as a joint call to action for the people of Cincinnati to stand up against injustice, inhumanity and genocide.
The collaboration to create and present the exhibition was a multi-institutional effort. The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education partnered with Dr. Michael Berenbaum of American Jewish University and the Sigi Ziering Institute in order to curate the exhibition and create the exhibition’s framework and story, and collaborated with Museum Center’s Exhibits and Collections Departments in order to develop the exhibition’s design. Museum Center’s team also built, prepared and installed the exhibition, with creative contributions from Freedom Center’s Design Department.
In addition to serving as host venue for the exhibition and offering design and concepting contributions, Freedom Center’s education team joined forces with Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education’s education team to provide joint programming at both institutions for the duration of the exhibition’s run.