When the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center (HHC) moved to Union Terminal last January, it was about more than just expanded space for exhibits and speakers. It’s also located in the train station where many survivors took their first steps towards rebuilding their lives after WWII.
Three of those survivors — Al Miller, Henry Fenichel, and Zahava Rendler — will be at the museum this Sunday, January 26, from 1:30–2 p.m. to tell their stories near exhibits that feature them.
“They’ll be available to share their experiences and interact with visitors, which is something that we don’t do very often,” says Kara Driscoll, communications and marketing manager for the HHC. Although there is a weekly Speaker Series at Union Terminal, she explains, the presenters often don't stand in the museum interacting with guests.
This is especially important, as the number of survivors is dwindling. However, anti-Semitism is on the rise, with a reported 6,768 U.S. incidents in 2018 and 2019 with approximately 204 in Ohio alone, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
“I think what we believe is really important is that we are here to educate people when these incidents are occurring,” says Driscoll. “This year, the number [of incidents] alone is really alarming. It’s more important now than ever to teach the lessons of the Holocaust so that we don’t repeat things that occurred.”
Following the survivor’s talks, there will be a cake cutting that celebrates the center’s first year in Union Terminal, as well as the success they’ve seen.
The event culminates in a concert titled “Prayer Interrupted: Music in a World Turned Upside Down.” The ticketed show, which takes place from 3–4:30 p.m. is free but will likely have a waitlist.
The concert is a collaborative between the HHC and the Cincinnati Song Initiative. Simon Barrad will lead Jewish composers in a series of liturgical music found in Cincinnati’s Hebrew Union College’s collection of music manuscripts.
“Some of these songs have never been performed before, so we’re really anticipating this being a great event,” says Driscoll. “It’s just kind of timely for us as well because it’s the first anniversary [of the] move to Union Terminal for us, but this concert’s also commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. We think this is a really unique event.”
For the price of museum admission, visitors can see artifacts on display in the concourse, including rare music manuscripts and items from Auschwitz. Admission includes the survivor talks as well.
Driscoll encourages both new and returning visitors to attend, as there have been some recent exhibit changes as well. For those who haven’t yet gone to the HHC, she explains that half of the museum focuses on the Holocaust and local survivors — their stories, what they’ve experienced, and the stories of veterans who liberated camps.
“It’s a whole spectrum of stories that really relate to our city,” she says.
Then there’s the Humanity Gallery, which correlates those lessons of the Holocaust with present-day issues and the idea of being an “upstander.”
“[An upstander is] a person who took action during the Holocaust to help other people and who take action today for a gamut of issues that we face, from Civil Rights to women’s rights to the environment — all kinds of different issues that we need to be actionable about these days, so it really kind of helps people make their own connections in whatever way,” Driscoll says. “We’re not here to tell people what to think, we just want people to think about how they can be upstanders in their own lives.”
Throughout 2020-2021, the HHC will host a variety of events that both celebrate the center’s 20th anniversary as a museum as well as the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII with a 40s-themed Liberation Ball on May 3.