“Women’s Destiny of Holocaust: Humanity at Times of Cruelty” exhibition was opened in the Centre of Gender Culture on January 19. It’s timed to International Holocaust Remembrance Day which is annually observed on January 27.
The event organizers decided to break stereotypes and present women who lived in the World War II period not as victims but as heroines. The exhibition includes 24 stories of women of the era who saved Jewish men, women, and kids from extermination.
All these women were awarded the title of Righteous among the Nations. This title has been an honorific used since 1963 by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis.
During the event, a number of lectures and seminars were held in the Centre of Gender Culture. On January 18, a seminar for principals specific to educational work took place in the museum. It was focused on events that should be held at schools to let schoolchildren become involved into memory politics of Ukrainian Jews. About 1.5 million of them were eliminated during World War II. It’s crucial to hold extracurricular activities where pupils should be informed what was happening in those horrific times.
On January 23, the Tragedy of Burnt Jewish Hearts lecture was given. Many students attended the event. One of the meeting’s organizer’s Svitlana Hubina told about the Holocaust and facilitated the discussion on how Germans came up with the idea to destroy other nations.
The Germanic race wasn’t anti-Semitic or cruel from the offset, but the state system in Nazi Germany aimed to indoctrinate its citizens that Jews posed harm for the nation and for the country as a whole.
“Nazis published books and propaganda, including children’s board games like Kick Jews Out, shared information in newspapers that Jewish drink blood of babies and crucify kids. These ideas, created by Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s minister of propaganda, are still used in some countries to create an enemy image,” notes Svitlana.
During the discussion, she asked young visitors what they could do so that it doesn’t happen again. A vast majority of children remained silent. Some of them were seemingly afraid to answer; the theme was unclear for others. Holocaust topic is taught only at high school. That’s why most of them heard about it for the first time.
The exhibition carries the message that we are all equal. Every exhibition’s stand tells its own unique story. Kharkiv residents Prokofiy and Yevdokia Bohancha lived on Kontorska St, located in the downtown, and their son Mykola studied with a Jewish girl Zhanna Arshanskaya who was a talented pianist. When Nazi occupied Kharkiv in December 1941, they ordered all Jewish Kharkivites to gather at the premises of an abandoned machine tool plant in KhTZ area.
Fortunately, Zhanna and her sister Frina managed to escape. One day, they knocked on the Bohancha’s door and the couple hid the girls in their home for two weeks. Then the family hired a transport and the girls were moved to Poltava orphanage where they lived under fictitious names. At the end of the war, the gifted girls moved to Austria and later to the USA. They became famous pianists and are known as Zhanna Dawson and Frina Boldt.
The Bohancha saved the girls, risking their lives as they would have been shot if Nazi found out they helped Jewish. The sad fact is that in the period of December 1941-January 1942, about 9,000 Kharkiv residents of Jewish origin were shot dead.
The event was organized by the Center of Gender Culture director Tetiana Isaieva, Svitlana Hubina, and designer Maria Chorna.
It will run until February 19 in the Gender Museum.
Text: Natalia Ivanova
Photo: Centre of Gender Culture