Exhibit featuring life of Slovak girl during Holocaust comes to Sandy Springs

The Georgia Commission on the Holocaust will host a traveling exhibit offering a rare glimpse of a young Czechoslovakian girl on the eve of Adolph Hitler’s “Final Solution” intended to rid Europe of Jews. The exhibit, “In Her Father’s Eyes: A Slovak Childhood in the Shadow of the Holocaust”, is the fruit of a unique partnership among Kennesaw State, the University of Tennessee Knoxville and Youngstown (Ohio) University. It will be on view at Anne Frank in the World: 1929-1945 this spring.

The exhibit opens February 28th, 2013, at Anne Frank in the World: 1929-1945 (5920 Roswell Road, Suite A209, Sandy Springs, Georgia 30328) and will remain on view through April 3rd, 2013. Please call 770-206-1558 for more information. Exhibit hours and directions are available online.

“In Her Father’s Eyes: A Slovak Childhood in the Shadow of the Holocaust” chronicles the life of Kitty Weichherz, who lived thirteen years before she and her parents were put to death in the Nazi Sobibór concentration camp in Poland.

Diary page. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Kitty’s story is captured in words and photographs by her father, Bela, who maintained a meticulous diary of the “mundane and profound” events of his daughter’s life. It spans 1929 to 1942, from the family’s normal, middle-class existence before World War II through the turbulent years during which Slovakia declared its independence from the Czecho-Slovak Republic, succumbed to Nazi pressures after the invasion, and adopted German anti-Jewish policies.   

“This is a very poignant and historically significant exhibit,” says Catherine Lewis, director of Kennesaw State’s Museum of History and Holocaust Education and associate professor of history. “It not only highlights the life of young Kitty, but it documents the lives of ordinary Jewish families in Czechoslovakia during a time of intense political change.”

Lewis mounted “In Her Father’s Eyes” in conjunction with the University of Tennessee’s Daniel Magilow, professor of German and exhibit curator, whose scholarship resulted in a companion book: In her Father’s Eyes: A Childhood Extinguished by the Holocaust (Rutgers University Press).   

Image on the front page of the diary, summer 1933. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In addition, the exhibit relied on research conducted by Youngstown State University students in a graduate museum studies class taught by Tom Leary, coordinator of applied history at YSU. Leary and Helene Seinnreich, director of Judaic and Holocaust Studies, served as exhibit consultants and agreed to develop two graduate courses that could use Kitty’s story as a core component of the curriculum. 

The exhibit, which opened in June at the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Washington, D.C., now resides at the University of Tennessee’s John Hodges Library, where it will be through December. It will open at Congregation Dor Tamid in Atlanta, Ga., in January.

“It was important for the Slovak Embassy to host the exhibit opening,” says Lewis, “because this is a very sensitive topic.  It was difficult for the former Czechoslovakia to acknowledge its role in the deportation and death of its Jewish citizens during the Holocaust, and we were very impressed by the staff’s willingness to tackle this difficult moment in history.”