Holocaust survivors’ courage and resilience are the focus of a traveling exhibit coming to Camp Rapid.
“Transfer of Memory” showcases 45 photos and stories of Holocaust survivors. The exhibit is a collaboration between photographer David Sherman, writer Lili Chester, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.
“What the Jewish people suffered is beyond description. This is illustrating the survivors so it’s that story of not just suffering but of survival,” said South Dakota National Guard state chaplain Lynn Wilson.
“Transfer of Memory” will be at Camp Rapid Sept. 9-27, and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. The exhibit officially opens with a ceremony and program at 2 p.m. today in the Joint Force Headquarters main building at Camp Rapid, 2823 W. Main St. The program also will mark the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with a remembrance tribute honoring 9-11 victims and survivors.
Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden will be one of the guest speakers at the opening ceremony. Rhoden is veteran of the South Dakota National Guard. His father, Allen, helped liberate a concentration camp during World War II. Col. Laurence Bazer, a Jewish chaplain with the National Guard Bureau in Washington D.C., will talk about his experiences ministering to victims and first responders in the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, will talk about the exhibit and how it got started. Dr. Steven Benn, president of the Synagogue of the Hills in Rapid City, and Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz also will be guest speakers. Alperowitz is currently the only rabbi in South Dakota.
As the 75th anniversary of World War II approaches in 2020, “Transfer of Memory” educates the public about the Allied Forces fight to end Hitler’s Third Reich and the Holocaust. Bringing “Transfer of Memory” to Camp Rapid honors the services of the National Guard and World War II veterans, Hunegs said. Posters picturing liberators and patches that prisoners had to wear will be on display concurrently with “Transfer of Memory.”
“This may be the last anniversary with a significant number of World War II veterans available,” Hunegs said. “It’s very appropriate that we remember our liberators and a good way to do it is to bring the ‘Transfer of Memory’ exhibit to military installations.”
The color portraits intentionally depict the survivors as living full, vital lives that are not defined by victimhood. Survivors were photographed in their own homes, and everyone was interviewed and videotaped prior to having their portrait made. Text excerpted from survivors’ interviews accompanies each portrait, providing background and a short history in the survivors' own words.
"Transfer of Memory reminds us all of a memory that must never be forgotten — that there was a time in history where people were exterminated solely on the basis of their ethnic or religious convictions," Wilson said. "But the Transfer of Memory reminds us of a second memory as important — that no pit is so deep that God is not deeper still. No horror can break the resilient spirit that knows there is always hope no matter how bad things may currently be."
For Carstin Jerzak, part of her job the South Dakota National Guard Equal Employment manager is to enhance diversity and inclusion. “Transfer of Memory” raises awareness within the National Guard about local citizens and Guard members who practice the Jewish faith. "Until you put this out there, you really don’t know we have this diversity in our organization. This has been really good to make connections," she said.
“The portraits really have a foundation in those that perished, but this is about the survivors and really, really resilience people. That’s a big component (we’re emphasizing) in the Guard,” Jerzak said. “Besides diversity and inclusion, it hits on resilience; that’s another reason we were excited about the opportunity to bring it here."
Wilson and Jerzak hope that as “Transfer of Memory” honors the Jewish community, the exhibit will encourage everyone who sees it to find determination in the face of suffering.
“Each of the pictures has a story of survival during exceedingly difficult circumstances. I think the exhibit is resiliency building,” Wilson said. “To me, when we see people who have survived the Holocaust, I think it helps put our own personal problems into perspective. If these people made it, we can make it.”