Fred Amram

Fred Amram, left, signs citizenship documents with German Consul General Herbert Quelle at the Germanic-American Institute in St. Paul recently. Amram, a Holocaust survivor, recently accepted an offer from the German government to have his German citizenship restored. Photo by Christopher Juhn for MPR News

MANKATO — Organizers of a soon-to-open exhibit of photographs of Holocaust survivors want viewers to note the smiles worn by the healthy-looking Minnesotans who posed for the portraits.

The display, offered through a partnership with Minnesota State University and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, illustrates its subjects in their homes, in full color.

“It's important that you don't see them as victims in their victimness,” said the exhibit's curator Laura Zelle, who is also the Council's director of Tolerance Minnesota and Holocaust Education.

“Transfer of Memory” — which opens Monday in MSU's Centennial Student Union — includes text describing the stories of people who live or had lived in the state after surviving Nazi atrocities.

Photographer David Sherman and writer Lili Chester are the display's creators.

The touring exhibition enables the JCRC's education program to bring lessons of the Shoah (Holocaust) to communities in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and the Dakotas.

Survivor Fred Amram, 85, of Minneapolis, will speak 2 p.m. Tuesday at Ostrander Auditorium on the MSU campus.

Eyewitness accounts are the best way to teach youths about the Holocaust, Zelle said.

“It is such an enormous topic,” Zelle said.

Amram, who was born in 1933, was a youngster living in Hanover, Germany, when he witnessed the targeting of Jews who were beaten and had their shops smashed by looters.

His father was a prisoner in a forced labor camp who eventually escaped.

When he was 6 years old, Amram fled with his family to New York days after World War II broke out. However, some of his relatives did not escape. A cousin was 3 ½ years old when she was gassed to death at Auschwitz.

After Amram's presentation, Zelle and other curators of the exhibit will provide guided tours of the exhibit.

MSU's Department of Sociology and Corrections, MSU Library Services, and the Kessel Peace Institute are campus partners for the exhibit and related events.

Programming aimed at teachers and educators-in-training is planned Oct. 16. “Echos and Reflections” offers a comprehensive study of events and explores how the Holocaust continues to influence social issues in the world today.

“I think it's very important to have an exhibit about the Holocaust on campus,” said Carol Glasser, director of the Kessel Peace Institute and an associate professor at MSU.

“We just don't have that many people alive who lived through those times.”

“The name of the exhibit is 'Transfer of Memories' and our students will have the opportunity to have this (the survivors' stories) in their brains.”

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