UNI exhibit examines the witnesses of the Holocaust

A poster for a Holocaust exhibit in the UNI Rod Library.

A new exhibit at the University of Northern Iowa examines the millions of ordinary people who witnessed the Holocaust, challenging the commonly held notion that its tragedies were perpetrated far from the view of ordinary citizens.

The exhibit, “Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration & Complicity in the Holocaust,” will be on display from Feb. 16 to March 8 in the Learning Commons Exhibition Wall on the main floor of Rod Library. 

In contrast to most exhibits on the Holocaust, in which attention is primarily on the architects, perpetrators and victims of mass murder, the focus of “Some Were Neighbors” is on the millions of ordinary peple who witnessed the crimes of the Holocaust. 

“One of the aims of the exhibit is to underscore, for our own times, each individual’s responsibilities when our “neighbors” are threatened by neglect, animosity or imminent danger,” said Stephen Gaies, director of the UNI Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education and professor emeritus in the department of languages and literature.

The exhibit, a collaboration between the Rod Library and the UNI Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education, explores how "neighbors" — workers, teenagers, policemen, religious leaders, business associates, teachers and friends — made individual choices that amounted to collaboration, complicity and, less frequently, resistance to Nazi Germany’s persecution and murder of Jews.

The exhibit provides a different perspective by showing that the Holocaust was shaped by the individual decisions made by ordinary individuals, motivated by social pressure, self-interest, antisemitism or personal ethics. 

This poster exhibit was developed from a large-scale exhibit that opened in April 2013 at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in conjunction with the Museum’s 20th anniversary and remained on display through 2018. 

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Julie Ann Beddow, Rod Library, at julieann.beddow@uni.edu or (319) 273-6256.