Historic exhibition remembering Auschwitz to open at Union Station

"Auschwitz Exhibit: Not Long Ago. Not Far Away" coming to Union Station June 2021

Auschwitz exhibit. // Photo Courtesy of Union Station

On the morning of Tuesday, September 15, President and CEO of Union Station, George Guastello, announced a historic exhibition of international magnitude that is scheduled to open June 2021 at the Bank of America Gallery in Union Station. Guastello opened the announcement atop the rotunda of the Grand Hall in Union Station saying: “Over the last five years our professional team, board, directors, and civic leaders have been working tirelessly to bring this exhibition to Kansas City. We’ve taken trips, we’ve toured professionals, we have negotiated deals, and countless details have been worked out over that time frame for this historic announcement.”

The very first traveling exhibit on Auschwitz and its historical and human repercussions of the Holocaust and genocide will be arriving at Union Station this summer. The exhibition, The Auschwitz Exhibit: Not Long Ago. Not Far Away, was previewed at the announcement with a chilling video detailing what it will offer.

Many of the 700 original artifacts the exhibit will include, coming from 20 worldwide institutions, museums, and private collections, have never been viewed by the public before.

The story that inspired the exhibit was brought to the attention of Guastello and Union Station Board Chairman Ramón Murguía by Luis Ferreiro, a young man from Spain who they met at a conference in Atlanta five years ago. Union Station acted as an adopter to help Ferreiro, supplying him knowledge on what exhibitors need. They traveled to Poland, Portugal, and Madrid working with producers to create the exhibition.

Ferreiro joined the announcement virtually, stating, “It has been the will and responsibility to watch our history and our present that has made it possible to present nine months from now Auschwitz: Not Long Ago, Not Far Away at Union Station in Kansas City. From all of us involved in this project, we encourage you to use that freedom and that responsibility to visit the exhibition.”

Union Station also worked with representatives from Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, a museum on the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Oświęcim, Poland. Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum director Dr. Piotr Cywiński also joined the event virtually. He reminded viewers that the exhibition honoring this memorable site is the biggest in the history of the world. He continued saying, “The meaning of Auschwitz is particularly important. It’s not only the historical meaning, but it’s also a meaning for all of us, for the future of our civilization, of our human history.”

Chairman Murguía spoke about the excitement the scale of the exhibit will offer, attracting visitors locally, nationally, and even internationally.  “This is a once in a lifetime experience, and we’re deeply honored to be leading it here, as only one of two U.S. tour stops.”

The exhibit will return to Europe upon completing its tour in the U.S.

The Midwest Center for Holocaust Education has acted as a local partner in bringing the exhibit to Kansas City. With 26 years of experience telling the story of the Holocaust and its survivors, MCHE will supplement the exhibition with a series of public educational dialogue and programs.

Jessica Rockhold, the executive director of MCHE, urges people to take advantage of attending an exhibit that would normally require traveling to the death camps in Poland. She also stated the relevance of what the exhibition holds, especially at this time in our history.

“The Holocaust and Auschwitz represent the dangers of unchecked bigotry and racism. It stands as a lesson for all humanity, it asks us, it demands of us to challenge our belief and the capacity of human behavior. We think of perpetrators. We think of victims. But the truth is, it exists on a spectrum of responsibility where most people did not perpetrate, most people were not victims. They were collaborators with varying levels of complicity, some were rescuers. But the vast majority were the indifferent middle. And this challenges us to consider where we land on a spectrum of responsibility in our world today, and what our responsibilities are as citizens of the world and the challenges that we face.”

The exhibit could also be arriving at a perfect time to educate younger generations of the very real facts behind the Holocaust.

In an article published by The Guardian, it was revealed that a recent disturbing study found that more than 1 in 10 young American adults believe Jews caused the Holocaust, while almost two-thirds do not know that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

The study, U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey, is the first to evaluate all 50 states in the U.S., ranking each according to an overall score based on three criteria: whether young people have definitely heard about the Holocaust; whether they can name one concentration camp, death camp or ghetto; and whether they know 6 million Jews were killed.

“Data was collected in the United States and analyzed by Schoen Cooperman Research, with a representative sample of 1,000 interviews nationwide and 200 interviews in each state with adults ages 18 to 39,” states the Claim Conference, the organization on Jewish material claims against Germany,  who commissioned the survey.

Nationally, 48 percent of U.S. Millennial and Gen Z were unable to name a single one of the more than 40,000 concentration camps or ghettos established during World War II. 56 percent of the same demographic were unable to identify Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Approximately half (49 percent) of respondents have seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts on social media or elsewhere online.

Another disturbing statistic, 59 percent of respondents indicate that they believe something like the Holocaust could happen again. However, these youth also feel that this can be combatted by implementing further education on the event in schools.

The light at the end of the tunnel is that almost two-thirds (64%) of American millennial and Gen Z adults believe Holocaust education should be required in schools. Seven out of 10 said it was not acceptable for an individual to hold neo-Nazi views.

This survey demonstrates that The Auschwitz Exhibit: Not Long Ago. Not Far Away has come into existence when it is needed most. Holocaust survivors will be able to witness this profound moment and young adults can experience this very real dark chapter of our world’s history. 

Both Kansas City and the rest of the nation are called to take full advantage of this unprecedented exhibition when it arrives at Union Station this summer. Guastello stated, “Kansas City has earned a reputation for stellar appetite and appreciation of historical and culturally relevant exhibitions.”

Purchase tickets in advance here.

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