Photos and personal stories of 32 Holocaust survivors currently hang on the wall outside the Lenz Conference Center at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College in Fennimore. The display also includes books; some autobiographies and some filled with letters of those traumatized by the events, behind a display case. Additional copies of the books may be made available in the Knox Learning Center on campus at 1800 Bronson Blvd.
The display, titled “Multiply by Six Million: Stories and Portraits from Holocaust Survivors,” features images of Holocaust survivors living in California and Paris taken by photographer Evvy Eisen over 15 years. Each piece includes a dramatic black-and-white portrait and compelling narrative of the survivors’ own description of his/her experiences during and after World War II.
Eisen says on her website evvyeisen.com: “I undertook this work to present the Holocaust on a human level because I believe that it is only through a personal connection that we can understand the true meaning of such events and prevent them from ever happening again.
“The combination of photograph and story function together to vividly portray the power of human courage, stamina, and creativity born of the most desperate circumstances. Their portraits reveal a powerful honesty, and are a testament to their survival and to the productive lives they have led.”
“It’s incredible the things people go through to survive,” said Chantel Hampton, social science instructor and member of the Diversity Work Group at Southwest Tech. “It’s incredible how they can function after. That’s my biggest take away. Just put yourself in those folks’ shoes and try to empathize.”
Eisen’s exhibit, which has been seen by over 10,000 viewers in museums and educational settings, opened Jan. 20, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and can be viewed through March 1 during normal campus hours: 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday
In addition to the exhibit, Hampton is hopeful that the work group will be able to bring in guest speakers this month.
The exhibit is open to everyone in the community and is the perfect opportunity for a visit from a school group or community organization, according to Hampton. “We are seeing this increase of hate crimes against the Jewish community here in the United States and across the globe and it’s sad and scary because part of it is we don’t have people who remember that time period,” she said. “They didn’t live in that time period. If we can help people understand it and try to feel that empathy for those folks who experienced that, maybe we’ll be less likely to say certain things or do certain things that could really hurt another person.”
Students on campus have a great opportunity to view the exhibit during their daily travels and during their visit to the cafeteria. The location will hopefully serve many students and staff. “My hope is that students can read these stories and maybe they didn’t have a person who fought or they didn’t have family who experienced that, but they can recognize those folks within their family and say, ‘Oh, that’s what it would have felt like, that could have been my family, that could have been me in that situation,’… and just to feel that human connection,” said Hampton.
The work group already has scheduled an exhibit for next year’s Diversity Week, which will focus on immigration. “How can we get our students engaged so that they’re learning that there is this huge world all around us, whether you’re from southwest Wisconsin or downtown L.A., diversity is all around you, everywhere you go,” said Hampton. “It’s about recognizing what it is and how you can raise that and be a positive piece of that environment.”
Southwest Wisconsin Technical College is one of 16 institutions that comprise the Wisconsin Technical College System. Southwest Tech offers more than 60 programs in a wide variety of disciplines. For more information, see http://swtc.edu.