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Literary Holocaust exhibit for kids opens in Montreal

Fania’s Heart is one of the books for young people that’s highlighted in Tell Me a Story!

The Montreal Holocaust Museum’s (MHM) travelling exhibition for teens and children over the age of eight has come home.

Tell Me a Story! Youth Literature and the Holocaust is being shown at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal from Dec. 8-March 1.

This original exhibition focuses on the history of the Holocaust and the Second World War using books by local authors that deal with the experiences of children.

The exhibition is intended to introduce young visitors to the dangers of racism and anti-Semitism in a way they can relate to.

“Young people are able to better understand the dangers of hatred and the impacts of genocide when they learn through personal stories,” explained Marie-Blanche Fourcade, the MHM’s head of collections and exhibitions. “This was a key objective in creating Tell Me a Story! and the five selected books reflect the educational goal of the exhibit.”

The books presented are based on real events. They are:

  • the memoir In Hiding by Holocaust survivor Marguerite Élias-Quddus, who recounts the three years she and her sister spent living under false identities with various families in France during the war;
  • Kees Vanderhayden’s book, The Fresh Smell of Soap, which was inspired by his friendship with an Austrian child who was sent by the Red Cross to live with his family in the Netherlands in 1948;
  • Monique Polak’s novel, What World is Left, which is based on the the story of her mother, a Jewish child who was imprisoned in Theresienstadt during the Holocaust;
  • Anne Renaud’s Fania’s Heart, the remarkable true story of a heart-shaped booklet, which was made at great risk as a 20th birthday gift for Fania in Auschwitz by other young women in the camp; and
  • Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine, which is about Hana Brady, a young Holocaust victim whose suitcase ends up at a children’s Holocaust education centre in Tokyo, and Fumiko Ishioka, who seeks to find out what happened to her.

“Despite the difficult and sometimes horrific moments endured by the children featured in these stories, themes of hope, friendship and perseverance are at the heart of the five books and the exhibition,” said Fourcade.

Young visitors and their parents can also view replicas of photo albums and artifacts, read books in a dedicated space and ask questions that may arise.

With the assistance of pedagogical tools offered by the MHM, parents and educators can better prepare themselves to answer difficult questions.