WEATHER ALERT

To better ‘preserve and honour the memory’ Holocaust Education Centre reopens with more stories, better access after $213,000 upgrade

Pictures of people on vacation, at home and work, on the beach, at the zoo, skiing — that’s what greets visitors who come to the newly renovated and updated Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre at the Asper Jewish Community Campus.

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Pictures of people on vacation, at home and work, on the beach, at the zoo, skiing — that’s what greets visitors who come to the newly renovated and updated Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre at the Asper Jewish Community Campus.

“We wanted to show what life was like for Jews in Europe before the Holocaust,” said Belle Jarniewski, director of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, of the exhibit at the entrance to the centre.

“We wanted to show the diversity of life, the lives they lived, and what was lost,” she added.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The goal of the upgrade was to add new technology to make it more engaging for younger, digitally oriented visitors, says Belle Jarniewski, director of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada.

Telling those stories is a goal of the Holocaust Education Centre, which is operated by the Heritage Centre.

Closed during the pandemic for renovations, it will re-open to with presentations by the Honourable Irwin Cotler, Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, and Peter Flegel, executive director of the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat.

The re-opening presentations will take place on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Berney Theatre at the Asper Centre, with an opportunity to visit the centre after.

A key goal of the renovation, which cost $213,000 — the funds came from donations and grants — was to add new technology to make it more engaging for younger people who are accustomed to using screens for educational purposes.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

This is the first upgrade since 2009, says Belle Jarniewski, director of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, which operates the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre.

That includes a large interactive table, where visitors can scroll up and down and click on topics to learn stories of some about the more than 1,000 Holocaust survivors who made Winnipeg their home after the war.

“That was the big-ticket item,” Jarniewski said of the table, which includes up-to-date maps of where all the camps and ghettos were in Europe.

“The best thing about it is we can add to it, and update it, without needing more space,” she said.

That’s a big concern for the centre, which houses more than 75,000 photographs, bound volumes of newspapers, recordings, boxes of documents and artifacts, all of them related to Holocaust survivors from Manitoba.

“There’s so much we can’t physically put on display,” she said.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A new interactive table is the ‘big-ticket item’ that allows the the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre to display more from its archives.

Along with the new interactive table, the centre will provide access to the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation database of Holocaust survivor stories — more than 55,000 in all, including from Canada.

“That’s not here yet,” she said. “Supply-chain issues. I hope it arrives by the time we open.”

In addition to the technological advances, the centre’s exhibits needed revising since the last updating in 2009, Jarniewski said.

“We wanted to showcase the best practices in museology and ways of talking about the Holocaust,” she said.

“We wanted to showcase the best practices in museology and ways of talking about the Holocaust.”–Belle Jarniewski

The rise in antisemitism around the world also prompted the centre to be more explicit about that topic, she said of the panels and displays where visitors can learn about the ghettos, concentration camps, death marches and resistance to the Nazis.

There are also displays about the history of antisemitism in Canada, such as a poster from Quebec in the 1920s that encouraged people in that province not to buy from Jewish businesses — to spend their money in stores owned by Christians.

“Things like that are surprising for young people, who see Canada through the lens of welcoming refugees and multiculturalism,” Jarniewski said. “Many don’t know that history.”

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre reopens on Wednesday.

Visitors will also see names of survivors who made Winnipeg their home scroll across a wall, one after the other, before blurring to yield a fresh set of names.

For Gustavo Zentner, president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, having a revitalized centre for Holocaust education in Manitoba is important.

“It is incumbent upon us as the Jewish community to preserve and honour the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, individuals who each had lives and stories of their own,” he said.

“Through these efforts, their stories will be presented in a way that will make them easily accessible and perpetuated well into the future.”

Attendance at the re-opening presentation is free, but people are asked to register by contacting the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada at scarbone@jhcwc.org or by calling 204-478-8590.

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John Longhurst

John Longhurst
Faith reporter

John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.

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