During World War I, the Ottoman government killed roughly 1.5 million Armenians. In 1994, the Hutus turned against the Tutsis and slaughtered as much as 20 percent of Rwanda’s population. In the mid-1970s, the Khmer Rouge government in Cambodia exterminated nearly 2 million of its own people. The ongoing conflict in Sudan has already claimed 400,000 lives and displaced more than 2.5 million people.
Genocide is described as the deliberate and systematic destruction of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation. In America, the Holocaust is perhaps the most well-known example of genocide. During World War II, the Holocaust resulted in the mass murder or genocide of approximately 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany's Third Reich.
The goal of “The Courage to Remember: The Holocaust 1933-1945” is to educate the masses, with the hope that learning about genocide and its inherent atrocities prevents it from happening again. The traveling educational exhibit has been displayed in 16 countries over the past 20 years. The exhibit is produced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and presented by the Foundation for California.
“There is a lot of ignorance when it comes to the Holocaust … and there’s a lot of misconception about Hitler and his ideology,” said Ted Gover, Foundation of California executive director, who has spent the last 17 years taking the exhibit to areas within the Asia-Pacific region.
On April 9, “The Courage to Remember” opened at Florida State College at Jacksonville’s South Campus Nathan H. Wilson Center for the Arts. The exhibit features four distinct themes: Nazi Germany, 1933-1938; Moving Toward the “Final Solution,” 1939-1941; Annihilation in Nazi-occupied Europe, 1941-1945; and Liberation, Building New Lives.
Press material describes the show as “a traveling exhibit that strives to address the issues of intolerance and hatred at the core, empowering people to educate themselves, learn from history and speak out against injustice.”
The exhibit’s 200 images and accompanying text have been collected throughout the years by the Museum of Tolerance’s research staff through relationships with Holocaust survivors. The general public has never seen many of the photographs and most of the originals are currently archived at the museum in L.A.
“This is a fairly straightforward, self-guided tour,” Gover said. “It doesn’t require docents or guides, but we do advise that it is best suited for children ages 12 and older.”
During Gover’s travels to places, including Thailand, India, Japan and China, he’s encountered many people who have little or no information about the Holocaust.
“In the streets of Rangoon, Burma, Nazi symbols are viewed as fashionable. I’ve seen it personally, T-shirts with swastikas and Ronald McDonald dolls with Hitler mustaches.”
According to Gover, there are parts of the world where “Mein Kampf,” Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s autobiography, is used as a primer on how to approach business as an organized entity. And, in the 21st century, the gas chamber is still being used to kill.
“These sorts of things are sobering and further remind us of how much work we have left to do to educate people on the Holocaust,” Gover said. “By bringing this exhibit to different areas of the world, we hope to dispel many of these myths. There’s a new urgency to education.”
One would think, after the atrocities of the Holocaust and the millions of people who were tortured and murdered, that history would not repeat itself. Yet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has denied that the Holocaust, and extermination of more than 6 million people, ever took place.
In 1983, the United States Congress established a Day of Remembrance, a national annual commemoration of the Holocaust on April 8, with Days of Remembrance observed April 7-14 this year.
“These lessons being presented by the exhibit are universal – there’s a new urgency to education,” Gover said. “They apply to all people and really implore us to speak out against the injustices of today.”