UC Merced Library Unveils Holocaust Exhibit

MERCED - Wednesday, Dec. 10, is Human Rights Day. It's also the day UC Merced will open its first-ever exhibit on the Jewish Holocaust. Named "The Holocaust: Genocide in History," the exhibit has been curated by three students enrolled in an applied research class at UC Merced.

Amanda Oesterreich, Paolo Diaz and John Lara are all juniors who are majoring in history. The class they are taking together, History 190, is a requirement of all majors.
But their chosen project is anything but typical, professor Gregg Herken said.

"These students elected to feature a painful and controversial topic: the systematic effort by Nazi Germany to exterminate the Jews of Europe during World War II. That would be a challenging task for any curator, and it's proven to be a valuable learning experience for these students."

One of the challenges, Herken said, is in controlling the message sent by the exhibit. The students' goal was to use the Holocaust as a 20th-century example of genocide, which continues today. Herken's goal, as a former Smithsonian curator, was to see a fair and accurate depiction of a controversial topic in contemporary history.

"When creating an exhibit on such a sensitive topic, you have to be aware of what you're communicating to those who view it," Herken said. "You want to be accurate but not sensational."

Artifacts for the exhibit — such as death camp guard and prisoner uniforms — have been loaned to the university by Michael Akers of Atwater, who has been instrumental in helping the library and students create the exhibit. The Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance has also loaned items from its permanent collection to round out the university's exhibit.

There will be a brief reception to open the exhibit at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10, on the third floor of the Leo & Dottie Kolligian Library, which is also where the exhibit will be on display until February. The exhibit is free and open to the public during the library's normal business hours. For information: Herken, (209) 228-4362 or Emily Lin, (209) 658-7146.

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