The necessary survival of memory

MHMC’s program in honour of International Holocaust Remembrance Days

By Luc Archambault

Some museums seem to exist in a void, silently. Why is that? Some certainly by lack of pertinence ; others by lack of popular commitment ; others by mere lack of visibility. The MHMC (the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre) lacks neither pertinence, nor popular commitment, nor visibility (who hasn’t seen the billboards in the subway?). Even though, it doesn’t seem to ring a bell with visitors and tourists in the Metropolis. Perhaps because of its subject matter… but its mere presence reflects the survival of a community faced with barbarism, and as such is a positive source of commemoration.

Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre WestmountMag.caThrough its permanent exhibition, the museum invites reflection on the nature and history of genocides. Not just the Holocaust, even if this event constitutes the main focus of artefacts and display cases of the visit. But the guides on hand will rapidly remind visitors of the continuous racism and prejudice, and confront them, ever so gently, on each and everyone’s capability for hate and the complex reality behind its inner logic.

The visit starts with the evocation of Jewish life before the war and the Nazi assumption of power. Afterwards, the visit enters the section on the institutionalization of terror in Germany, the steps leading to the instauration of discriminatory policies that finally resulted in the implementation of the genocidal machinery. The exhibition ends with the liberation, the displaced persons camps and all the problems liked with survivors’ immigration and the post-war period.

…the guides on hand will rapidly remind visitors of the continuous racism and prejudice, and confront them… on each and everyone’s capability for hate and the complex reality behind its inner logic.

Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre WestmountMag.caThe museum also showcases, behind its displays, rare personal objects, poignant testimonies of those years of persecution. Identity cards stamped ‘J’  for ‘Jewish’. Yellow stars worn in France, Croatia and elsewhere. And the Auschwitz heart, this small reliquary symbolizing hope and love, a magnificent tool for raising the awareness of young and not so young ones… The museum is rich with all sorts of documents, and the web site is full of teaching aids to help frame the necessary descent into hell of these young minds that must be made aware of this dark side of mankind’s history.

Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre WestmountMag.caOn January 24, start of the International Holocaust Remembrance Days to honour the memory of all victims (on the liberation anniversary of the Auschwitz death camp), the film Denial will be shown, followed by a discussion with Robert Jan van Pelt, architecture expert. This film retells the judicial battle between Deborah E. Lipstadt and David Irving, who brought a libel suit against her after she had accused him of being a Holocaust denier. Robert Jan van Pelt served as a witness during this trial. Please note that even though the entry for the screening is free, you must however reserve a seat on the MHMC website at

On January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, admission to the Museum will be free and you’ll be able to learn the Holocaust’s history thanks to testimony from survivors, Ted Bolgar (in English, at 11 am) and Elie Dawang (in French, at 1 pm). They will share their own experiences during the Shoah with visitors.

Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre WestmountMag.caTo evoke the universal aspect of genocides, the museum will show, on February 20, the film The Uncondemned, a documentary relating the Rwandan genocide, especially the mistreatment of women and the judiciary struggles that followed. As a matter of fact, since the instigation of rape as a war crime in 1919, nobody ever went to trial for this crime, even less before an international tribunal. This film relates the procedural steps taken by a team of lawyers in charge of this case, the courage of the women who accepted to bear witness, and of the subsequent victory of Justice.

For more information about the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre visit


Images: courtesy of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre

Luc Archambault

Luc Archambault
Writer and journalist, globe-trotter at heart, passionate about movies, music, literature and contemporary dance, came back to Montreal to pursue his unrelenting quest for artistic meaning.

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