A tribute to the American role in World War II will be the cornerstone of “From Memory to History,” the annual Shoa remembrance exhibit by the Holocaust Council of MetroWest.
The exhibit, on the Aidekman campus in Whippany, will feature an array of memorabilia, including military uniforms, documents, and photographs.
“This exhibit is recognizing those who fought and died after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Lend-Lease program, which supplied the American Allies with money and materiel before and after the December 1941 attack, and…the United States Army’s major role in liberating Nazi concentration camps,” said council director Barbara Wind. “We will be celebrating America’s role in putting an end to Hitler.”
A musical program called “The Songs of World War II” will open the exhibit on Sunday, March 14 at 2 p.m.; it will run through April 15.
Also on display will be some of Ugo Giannini’s postwar paintings and sketches from the D-Day landings that were part of the recent “Normandy Beach” exhibit at the Aidekman campus.
At the opening, Cantor Vadim Yucht of Morristown Jewish Center Beit Yisrael, a native of Ukraine whose parents were survivors, will perform songs popular with Soviet troops and civilians during wartime.
Singer Karen Merchant, who is the daughter-in-law of Maxine and Ugo Giannini, will present popular World War II-era songs in English.
“We will have the music of two wartime allies — what the soldiers sang and danced to and what the people at home sang and danced to,” said Wind.
Another key part of the presentation will be original letters exchanged between a South Orange woman and her cousin in Poland.
The correspondence, now on loan to the Jewish Historical Society of MetroWest, provides first-person insights into a family’s struggle to survive before, during, and after the war (see related article).
On March 9, the exhibit is scheduled to be the backdrop for a Holocaust educators’ conference for some 50 instructors from various parts of New Jersey. Shulamit Imber, director of pedagogy at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem, was the scheduled speaker at the event, cosponsored by the Anti-Defamation League’s New Jersey region and the Shoah Foundation.
The program will be dedicated to the memory of Cecille Seiden, a survivor from Belgium who settled in Livingston and became active in Holocaust education.
“Cecille was one of the driving forces of Holocaust education in the state,” said Wind.
Wind said the council’s limited resources prevented her from digging into some of the more controversial issues surrounding the American government’s conduct of World War II.
Historians continue to debate the United States’ late entry into the war, charges that it failed to intervene on behalf of Jews and other victims of Nazi genocide, and its use of atomic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“We have honed in on America’s role in the war and the importance of its presence,” said Wind. “I believe if America had not entered the war and supplied the Soviet Union, it would have been Hitler’s victory.”
Included in the presentation will be two handouts — one on President Franklin Roosevelt’s role in the war, the other on the contributions of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was a member of Congress during the war.
“People don’t know that LBJ was very proactive in getting as many people as he could out of Poland and into Texas,” said Wind. “When he was told that could kill his career, he replied ‘it was the right thing to do.’”