BY ALEX RIESE
Max Bornstein’s lungs filled with frigid cold water as he swam across the river to unoccupied France in 1940. His breath became laboured, his limbs fought his every move, but he knew he had to keep going. His freedom depended on his persistence.
Seventy-five years later, and 70 years after the liberation of Europe from Nazi control, THEMUSEUM is honouring the struggles of Bornstein and millions of others with its new Holocaust Remembered exhibit.
The exhibit, which opened March 11, is a collection of portraits, artifacts and stories of various Holocaust survivors. Its opening also featured a buffet of kosher food and speeches by members of the Jewish community, including Rabbi Moshe Goldman. He appreciates the effort THEMUSEUM put in to make sure these stories live on.
“People say THEMUSEUM could have gotten away without commemorating the liberation of Europe and Jews shouldn’t still be talking about the Holocaust,” he said during the opening ceremony. “Yet we live in a world where genocide is still practised and anti-Semitism is still fashionable in some parts of Europe.”
The centrepiece of the exhibit is a collection of black and white portraits by Toronto-based photographer Jason Schwartz. He worked with the Florida Holocaust Museum to connect with 188 Holocaust survivors, interviewing and photographing them, and gradually putting the exhibit together for display at the Florida Holocaust Museum. Schwartz’s great uncle was a Holocaust survivor, so he has a personal connection with the work.
“I knew about (my great uncle’s past) when I was a teenager, and I wrote a school paper about him in high school,” he said. “When I started taking photos of him, one of the pictures was so powerful that I decided to keep working with this subject matter through university.”
The artifacts featured in the exhibit were borrowed from the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre. David Marksell, the CEO of THEMUSEUM, is excited about the unique mix the exhibit brings.
“Together it’s a pretty powerful show, and it’s never been together as a show before,” he said.
Holocaust Remembered will run until May 31.