'Americans and the Holocaust' traveling exhibition coming to Virginia Tech
University Libraries at Virginia Tech will host "Americans and the Holocaust," a traveling exhibition from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum that examines the motives, pressures, and fears that shaped Americans' responses to Nazism, war, and genocide in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s from March 16 - April 27, 2020.
The touring exhibition — based on the special exhibition of the same name at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. — will be located on Newman Library’s second floor. The University Libraries is one of only 50 U.S. libraries chosen to host the exhibition during its 2020 to 2022 tour.
“This traveling exhibit from the American Library Association’s Public Programs Office and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is an opportunity for us to serve the people of the New River and Roanoke Valleys by bringing premier research about the Holocaust to them,” said Anthony Wright de Hernandez, University Libraries’ community collections archivist and inclusion and diversity coordinator and exhibit lead.
Based on extensive new research of that period, "Americans and the Holocaust" addresses important themes in American history, exploring the many factors — including the Great Depression, isolationism, xenophobia, racism, and antisemitism — that influenced decisions made by the U.S. government, the news media, organizations, and individuals as they responded to Nazism. This exhibition will challenge the commonly held assumptions that Americans knew little and did nothing about the Nazi persecution and murder of Jews as the Holocaust unfolded.
The exhibit asks questions, it presents facts and stories, and it leaves conclusions to the viewers.
“Much of the history presented in the exhibit was new to me when I first encountered it,” said Wright de Hernandez. “So much of our examination of the Holocaust focuses on what happened in Germany. I had never before encountered what American news media shared with the American public as the Nazi party was coming to power. That new background allows me to consider things differently and better understand how the Holocaust and other, more recent genocides happened almost peripherally to the daily experience of most Americans. It gives me a new perspective when considering the messages I receive from the news and social media today.”
Wright de Hernandez has taken the lead to bring this exhibition to campus. As the University Libraries’ inclusion and diversity coordinator, he strives to make connections and promote understanding among diverse campus groups.
“Our community is demographically diverse, drawing people from a variety of religions, ethnicities, races, nationalities, genders, sexualities, and cultures,” said Wright de Hernandez. “That diversity is a strength, but can also bring tension. Providing access to educational opportunities like this exhibit can help bring perspective. This exhibit and the events that will accompany it will be an expression of Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community and a strong supplement to existing educational programs around this and related topics.”
"Americans and the Holocaust: A Traveling Exhibition for Libraries" is an educational initiative of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Library Association.
"Americans and the Holocaust" is made possible by the generous support of lead sponsor Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine. Additional major funding was provided by the Bildners — Joan and Allen z”I, Elisa Spungen and Rob, Nancy and Jim — and Jane and Daniel Och. The museum’s exhibitions are also supported by the Lester Robbins and Sheila Johnson Robbins Traveling and Special Exhibitions Fund, established in 1990.