Never forget

Quirky Israeli Holocaust survivor photo exhibit heads to Germany

Exhibit creator Erez Kaganovitz says he wants to fight ‘Holocaust fatigue,’ bringing different stories to get young people to engage with the issue

A photography exhibition aimed at educating young people about the Holocaust will open in  Dachau, Germany, next week, a 10-minute drive from the site of the city’s Nazi concentration camp, the creator told eJewishPhilanthropy.

“Humans of the Holocaust,” which was inspired by the popular photography blog “Humans of New York,” showcases Holocaust survivors and, in some cases, their families in often colorful and unexpected ways.

In one, Dugo Litner, who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp, holds a gold balloon emblazoned with a Jewish star and the word “Jude” (Jew). “Dugo told me the only thing that allowed him to survive Auschwitz was his sense of humor,” the creator of the project, Erez Kaganovitz, told eJP.

Kaganovitz, who once worked as an Israeli parliamentary aide, launched his photography career with a project more directly mimicking “Humans of New York,” known as “Humans of Tel Aviv,” which he said sought to show the more personal, human side of Israel and Israelis, whom he felt were misunderstood abroad.

He said he was inspired to develop his Holocaust survivor project after seeing statistics from the Claims Conference, which found that roughly two-thirds of American millennials had not heard of Auschwitz and that half could not name a concentration camp or ghetto.

“It made me very angry,” Kaganovitz said. But then he realized that even he, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, had never been particularly interested in the Holocaust. “On Yom HaShoah (Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Day) I never turned on the television. If I didn’t care, why should they?”

Kaganovitz said he sought to “tell the story of the Holocaust in a different way.”

“I need to bring stories that are optimistic. I need to bring stories that resonate around the globe,” he said.

One photo shows Leila Jabarin, who was born to a Jewish family in Hungary, survived the Holocaust, moved to Israel and married a Muslim Arab man, converting to Islam. She now lives in the Arab Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm. Another of Gideon Lev focuses on the experience of Jewish refugees.

Kaganovitz’s photos, which are shared widely on social media, are designed to “get [young people] to stop and click.”

“The first thing is to bring them to the table,” he said.

In addition to his general concern about rising “Holocaust fatigue,” Kaganovitz said he was specifically interested in bringing his exhibition to Germany in light of the country’s still extant antisemitism — a 2019 survey found that 15% of the country’s population harbored antisemitic views — and the rising support for the country’s far-right political parties.

Last year, Kaganovitz displayed his exhibition in the embassy of the German state of Bavaria. Through that, he was connected to a local group, Foundation for International Youth Exchange Bavaria, which agreed to bring his exhibition to Dachau.

The photography exhibit will be on display at the Max Mannheimer Study Center in Dachau from June 14 through the end of July. Members of the local Jewish community and Holocaust survivors will attend the opening ceremony. In addition to displaying the photographs, Kaganovitz will lead workshops and other activities for the local community. From August, Kaganovitz will take his exhibit on the road, showing it at “middle, secondary and vocational schools, youth education centers and various public places,” he said.