WINNIPEG — Nearly 100 people gathered in a historic Winnipeg church recently for the opening of an exhibition about the Dachau concentration camp.
The travelling exhibit Names Instead of Numbers, stories of former inmates – both Jewish and non-Jewish – of Dachau, is on display at Westminster United Church until April 14.
The 119-year-old Westminster United is the first Canadian church to house the exhibit. The exhibit grew out of the Dachau Remembrance Book project, which began in 1999, and was first displayed at the Protestant Church of Reconciliation at the Dachau site.
Names Instead of Numbers consists of 27 panels, including a history of Dachau and the Holocaust and biographies of 22 former Dachau inmates. Among them are Dutch, French and Austrian Resistance fighters, a Roma, German, Austrian and Polish Jews, eastern Europeans and anti-Nazi clergy, the best known of whom is Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller. One of the people whose story is told is that of Rabbi Emeritus Erwin Schild of Toronto’s Adath Israel Congregation.
“Dachau was Nazi Germany’s first concentration camp,” said Belle Millo, chair of Winnipeg’s Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre, at the exhibit’s opening. “The camp was at first used to hold political prisoners. After Kristallnacht, a large number of Jewish prisoners were taken to Dachau. They were later joined by Seventh Day Adventists, Roma and common criminals.”
Millo, whose father, the late Samuel Jarniewski, was a survivor of Dachau, is responsible for bringing the exhibit to Winnipeg. The Protestant Church of Reconciliation contacted her after the release of her book, Voices of Winnipeg Holocaust Survivors, two years ago.
Millo contacted Rev. James Christie, a professor in the theology department at the University of Winnipeg and director of the university’s Ridd Institute for Religion and Global Policy, who is known as a friend of the Winnipeg Jewish community. Then Rev. Christie put her in touch with Rev. Robert Campbell of Westminster United.
“We saw this project as a wonderful opportunity to bring our two faiths together,” Rev. Campbell told the audience at the opening. “We hope that as viewers study the panels in the display and the stories they tell, the viewers will be encouraged as citizens to be vigilant in the defence of freedom and the pursuit of justice.”
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz praised Millo for her efforts to raise awareness of the Holocaust and keep the memory alive. His own parents, he noted, were survivors of the Buchenwald camp.
“Every year around this time, there are new names entered into the Dachau Remembrance Book,” Millo said. “The Nazis tried not only to murder all the Jews of Europe, but also to erase their names and their memory. In the camps, they became numbers. This exhibition restores the names of some of the victims and rescues their memory.”
The Names Instead of Numbers exhibit is sponsored by Westminster United Church, the Ridd Institute and the Freeman Family Foundation.
This article appears in the March 29 issue of The CJN