Interview: Exhibit Names Instead of Numbers in Los Angeles
From April 21st to August 10th the exhibition Names Instead of Numbers was shown in the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH). Kat Semel, former Aktion Sühnezeichen Volonteer in Dachau and now Director of Student Tours and Teacher Training in the museum talks about the exhibition and the accompanying program.
How did the Los Angeles Museum oft he Holocaust (LAMOTH) adapt the exhibition?
We chose 8 specific panels from the Names Instead of Numbers collection to highlight some of the different groups of prisoners that were interned at the Dachau KZ. We wanted to showcase differences between the types of prisoners and their backgrounds to emphasize the Nazis disregard for so many peoples.
What did you show in addition to the panels?
The exhibit was supplemented by artifacts that are catalogued in the LAMOTH archive. We used letters from prisoners that were sent from a Dachau subcamp to provide insight into what prisoners were enduring as well as what they were allowed to do, in addition to pictures taken during and after liberation that were given to US soldiers to share the atrocities with as many people they could. One artifact that is particularly pertinent was a report on what they found at Dachau put together by the US OSS section of the Army which later became the CIA.
Was there an accompanying program?
For the opening of the exhibit we had a viewing of the short documentary “The Liberators: Why We Fought”. In the film, several Dachau liberators and Survivors recount their time in the Concentration Camp system, as well as what happened during and after the liberation. 2 survivors, Ben Lesser and Joshua Kaufman, who were liberated at Dachau spoke after the film was shown and answered questions. It was a very moving event and wonderful to see the film and exhibit complement each other so well.
What did your visitors say about Names Instead of Numbers?
The visitor response has been absolutely amazing. Most people have remarked that they never knew this much about Dachau or what life was like in the camps. Visitors appreciated the artifacts and that they were directly connected to our Museum – one of the display cases has Identification cards of local Survivor Joe Alexander who was liberated in Kaufering.
Why did the LAMOTH chose this exhibition?
We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the Gedaechtnisbuch and Names Instead of Numbers exhibit. It allowed us to use display artifacts that have not been seen before, as well as provide new information on such an important part of this history.
(17.8.2017; Fotos: LAMOTH; Interview: Irene Stuiber)