Article Written by Chandra Colvin, Photo taken by Chandra Colvin.

During the month of Feb., St. Cloud State University’s Center for Genocide and Holocaust Education is holding a series of interrelated events. Events include photography exhibits and guest speakers.

On Feb. 7, John March, co-author of The Lost Photographs of Gerty Simon held a session on his literary work. March is an independent researcher and associate faculty at the University of Leeds in northern England. He has studied German photography from the first half of the twentieth century, with a focus on women photographers that were exiled after Nazi take-over of power.

The event featured several small prints from Gerty (Gertrude) Simon, a prominent Jewish photographer in the 1920’s and 1930’s who was known for her portraits of important political and artistic figures in Weimar Berlin and interwar London. As a refugee, Simon established a studio in Britain. However, she had stopped taking professional photographs in the late 1930’s. Unfortunately, her career was a distant and forgotten memory to many. Much of her collection was received by The Wiener Holocaust Museum in 2016, and was later made into an exhibition in 2019, showcasing her works and life story.

The public can find several prints of Simon’s portraits to view in Atwood near the Alumni room through the end of February with support by The Wiener Holocaust Library.

There is another photography exhibition that is open to the public for viewing through the end of Feb. It features portraits and accompanying stories of Minnesotans who survived the Holocaust. Stories range from brave escapes to life after arriving in Minnesota as a refugee.

The exhibit, titled, Transfer of Memory, was developed by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and has been brought to St. Cloud State University for viewing. The JCRC will be providing several special tours for specific groups of SCSU students. Portraits featured in Transfer of Memory were taken by professional photographer, David Sherman. He is based in Minneapolis and is the official photographer for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx.

Sherman will be visiting SCSU campus to speak about his works with Transfer of Memory on Tuesday, Feb. 20 from 9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m and on Wed, Feb. 21 from 12:30 p.m – 2 p.m. Both sessions will be held in the Alumni room in Atwood.

The Center for Genocide and Holocaust Education’s director, Dr. Emil Towner, states that,

“People often blame the Holocaust on a small group of extremists or even Hitler as a single evil individual. The reality is that any atrocity on the scale of the Holocaust takes millions of people in every industry and aspect of society. Artists, nurses, doctors, accountants, managers, teachers, police, bankers, lawyers, politicians, and more—all played roles in the Holocaust and other genocides.”

By providing resources and programming related to different majors and career fields, we [The Center for Genocide and Holocaust Education] help connect the horrific lessons of the past to our students and future leaders. Not only does this help students recognize the subtle ways in which their industry’s ethics can be manipulated or derailed, but it also provides a more inclusive approach to Holocaust and genocide education.”

The focus of artistic expressions is prominent in this month’s exhibitions.

“This year, we focused on art as a way to understand the Holocaust. After all, the Nazis relied on propaganda posters, branding, and photography to shape their messages. They employed highly skilled artists like graphic designers, illustrators, and filmmakers. But art also has a positive role. Children in ghettos created art to express grief or capture memories. Sculptors created memorials to honor and remember victims. And photographers captured Jewish culture before, during, and after the Holocaust,” said Towner.

The Center for Genocide and Holocaust Education plans to focus on other industries in the future such as technology, gaming and e-sports, social media, business, and education.

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