The necessary survival
MHMC’s program in honour of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 7
By Luc Archambault
Updated, April 4, 2021
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.
Through 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.
The 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.
Due to the pandemic, the Museum will hold this year’s traditional ceremony of commemoration on its Facebook page on Wednesday April 7th, 2021 at 6 pm. All Montrealers are invited to honor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust online and participate virtually in this ceremony. This is a free activity and no reservations are required.
The virtual ceremony will feature testimonials from survivors, including those of Gilbert Uzan, Muguette Myers, Lily Toth, Leo Kliot, Pinchas Blitt and the late Ursula Feist. The commemoration will also include traditional readings, messages of hope and a performance by Alexandre Da Costa, artistic director and conductor of the Longueuil symphonic Orchestra.
Yom Hashoah was declared as the International Day dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust in Québec in 1999, and in Canada in 2003. This commemoration was officially established by the Israeli parliament in 1951. About 4000 survivors still live today in Montreal.
For more information about the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre visit mhmc.caImages: courtesy of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre
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.