Zekelman Holocaust Center opens new exhibit

Mikhal Kovner, a member of the paper brigade, sorts through documents at YIVO. (Courtesy of Moreshet Archive, Anielevich Memorial Holocaust Study and Research Center)

“The Book Smugglers: Supporters, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish Treasures from the Nazis” runs until May 31, 2022.

Owould you risk your life to save a book? This is the underlying question of “Book Smugglers: Supporters, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish Treasures from the Nazis” on view at the newly renamed Zekelman Holocaust Center (HC) until 31 May 2022. The exhibit was curated by Holocaust Museum Houston and based on the book of the same name by Dr. David E. Fishman.

“The Book Smugglers” is the almost unbelievable true story of ghetto dwellers who saved thousands of rare books and manuscripts by hiding them on their person, burying them in bunkers and smuggling them across borders. . Located in Vilna, Lithuania – also known as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania” for its strong Jewish culture rich in art, music, literature, poetry, theater and opera – a small group of supporters and poets risked everything to save Jewish cultural treasures.

Dr. David E. Fishman
Dr. David E. Fishman

Before World War II, literature and art enabled the people of Vilna to rise above their daily persecution and enjoy a world of beauty in sound and color. Cultural activity compensates for the difficult political and economic situation of the Jews. After the Jews of Vilna were forced to live in a ghetto, the “Paper Brigade” was formed by a group of 40 intellectuals, writers, educators and activists to save Judaica for the next generation.

Together they rescued Jewish artifacts, books, scrolls, photographs, artwork, diaries, and literature from Nazi hands by smuggling them into the ghetto or hiding them in plain sight. of all.

“It is truly an incredible story of heroism, resilience and friendship and unwavering dedication – including the willingness to risk one’s life to save literature and art,” said Rabbi Eli Mayerfeld, CEO of the Zekelman Holocaust Center.

“Dr. Fishman researched this astonishing tale extensively by examining Jewish, German, and Soviet documents, including diaries, letters, memoirs, and by interviewing many of the participants in the story.

The exhibition consists of around 100 artifacts and reproductions on display, including panels with paintings and drawings, photographs, poetry, diaries, testimonies and music depicting Vilna’s Jewish heritage. Presenting themes of resistance and the persistence of cultural identity, the exhibition focuses on Vilna’s complicated history, life before World War II, the contributions of five members of the Paper Brigade and the results of their heroic mission.


In honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, Dr. David E. Fishman will discuss the incredible story of his book and the exhibit. This program will be presented virtually at 7 p.m. To register to attend the virtual conference via Zoom, visit tinyurl.com/mtynzzj8.

To order a copy of Fishman’s book, visit https://tinyurl.com/yckwyz2c.

Additionally, on January 27, HC will feature a second-generation Holocaust survivor who will speak at noon. Space is limited and reservations are required. At 1 p.m. there will be a public tour of the museum led by a docent. One must reserve. For more information, visit www.holocaustcenter.org or call (248) 553-2400.

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