The First USA-Exhibition of The Tragedy of Slovak Jews (November 4, 2005 - February 26, 2006)
It is generally known that many articles and books were printed, films were shown and discussions were held regarding the questions of holocaust, which was a great or total destruction of life by fire that were taking place on numberless occasions in the past. However, never had it attained such enormous dimensions as THE HOLOCAUST, which was the systematic, genocidal destruction of ober sic million European Jews by the Nazis before and during WWII, since 1933-1945. Therefore, it is an obligation of mankind to remember it on every occasion, thus preventing its possible revival in whatever form.
Desirous to introduce the reader into the afore-said exhibition, it seems appropriate to mention first that fomer Czechoslovakia was practically liquidated by the Nazis on March 15, 1939, I . e. after previous annexation of the so called Sudetenland territories to Germany, On that day the Nazis completed their total occupation of the already curtailed Czech Lands i. e. Bohemia, and Moravia, Regrettably, Poland used such an occasion to occupy the territories of Silesia and part of northern Moravia at the same time... It was also on March 15, 1939, when Slovakia was partially cut off by Hungary´s occupation of the large southern portion if its fertile land north of the Danube. The remaining northern, mountainous territory was declared to be an "independent" Nazi state of Slovakia, the existence of which was conditioned by a prior strict approval of the German Nazis. This Slovakia was to be governed by a puppet president, Tiso, pro-Nazi government, and Hlinka´s National People´s Party named in a derogatory way "Ľudaci". It was the latter decreased territory of "independent" Slovakia, which was the subject of this exhibition.
Obviously, with this in mind, the setting up of the above-mentioned exhibition in Cedar Rapids IA took place. In order to carry it out, voluminous and long lasting negotiations were to come off between the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, Cedar Rapids, IA, acronymed as NCSML, and the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising, Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, acronymed as MSNU). The management of such negotiations started already in 2003 and became more intense during the several last months of the year, 2005, on the part of both institutions. At the NCSML, it was the curator Edith Blanchard, who was entrusted to do all the pioneer work, but she also conducted in addition a very successful forum with many scholars and survivors of The Holocaust. All such negotiations were also initiated on the basis of the knowledge which the MSNU had elaborate on during several preceding years of through investigations concerning this tragedy. Indeed The MSNU accomplished an extremely careful and assduous research. Into the bargain, financial questions were an additional problem to be solved between both museums. In this respect, the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic, the Central Union of the Jewish Religious Committees in Slovakia as well as local sponsorship participated all in a very satisfactory manner. Thus, it was possible to bring about the exhibition of "The Tragedy of Slovak Jews", on the premises of the NCSML. In fact, it was staged from November 4, 2005 until February 26, 2006, rendering it feasible to sere as a further reminder of those fatal and utmost calamitous events of The Holocaust.
Basically, the exhibition consisted of 32 panels, which were placed in groupings around the respective extensive gallery. These panels also partially put up on the walls of 12 cases which were set up in square stands in the form of about 1 yard wide each side and about 2.1/2 yards high. On these panels, many documents and photograpiehs were shown with detailed explanations, both in Slovak and Englis languages. Also, actual objects, i. e. Torah Shield, Sabbath Hat, Instruments of torture, etc. on loan from various US-citizens or museums were exhibited. Besides, on the room´s walls were shown some Slovak Anti-Jewish propaganda posters. In addition, a portion of a miniature transport cattle waggon was set up to show how all the detailnees or prisoners were deported to the Labor or Concentration camps. There were pictures of several Slovak Jewish temples, which were damaged or destroyed by the Nazi actions. Moreover, it showed a list of Nazi Concentration Camps, i. e. Konzentrationslager acronymed as KZ, established not only in Germany, but also in Poland, Austria, Slovakia and Bohemia. Case #9 drew attention to Theresienstadt/ Terezín, showing special money, usable in that camp only. The countless tragic documents showed that over the period of six years, Slovakia deported nearly 60,000 Slovak Jews to KZ, where most of them were murdered as part of Hitler´s "Final Solution". In total, 80 percent of Slovak Jews were lost during The Holocaust. Further documents proved that tiny Slovakia was the only "independent" state in Europe which participated along with the Nazis in war activity against Poland on September 1, 1939, and fought as a vassal state alongside the Nazis on the German vast eastern fronts against the Soviet Union. Another document showed that, on December 13, 1943, Slovakia even declared war on the USA and Great Britain.
Simultaneously, the underground activities were started in 1942-1944. In order to completely annihilate their activity, the Nazis began to occupy Slovakia with their military units on August 29, 1944. This reality put into operation the Slovak National Uprising, originated in Banska Bystrica. In the first days about 18,000 soldiers and officers started their fighting. Later on, it was gradually increased up to about 80,000men. Over 1.650 Slovak Jews fought in this uprising and 269 of them died in action. The Nazis waged war against this resistance from September, 1944, until May 1945 Many of the resistance fighters ended up in KZ. During those months, Slovakia´s fascists tortured or sloughtered about 5,300 people. They were found in mass graves. Into the bargain, while the above-mentioned exhibition was taking place, many enlightening lectures, accompanied by various screen projections were well organized by NCSML staff. Usually reknowned university scholars, who were particularly well versed in the subject in question, were presenting their extensive materials. Those lectures were attended by many visitors who asked the lecturers many pertaining questions. In conclusion, it is important to mention that many visitors attended this successful exhibition of NCSML. At a closingday meeting, high-ranking officials expressed their great appreciation of this exhibition by presenting their closing interesting lectures, referring to the tragedy of The Holocaust. Finally should you be interested in showing analogical exhibition at your place, it is no doubt good news that it is available for loan in the USA. In such an event, please contact the NCSML under the following address:
National Czech & Slovak
Museum & Library
Cedar Rapids, IA 52404
www.NCSML.orgCharles Opatrny, Cedar Rapids
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