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
“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.