U.S. Holocaust Museum Agrees to Recognize Bergson Activists





In response to petitions by Holocaust scholars, Jewish leaders, and families of Holocaust rescue activists, and an appeal by Elie Wiesel, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has for the first time publicly pledged to change its Permanent Exhibit to acknowledge the rescue work of the Bergson Group.

The Bergson Group, also known as the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, was a maverick 1940s political action committee that used newspaper ads, rallies, and lobbying on Capitol Hill to publicize the plight of the Jews under Hitler and the need for U.S. rescue action.

In a letter to The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, dated July 30, 2007, Dr. Steven Luckert, chief curator of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, pledged to make changes in the Museum’s Permanent Exhibit “by early spring of 2008” in order to acknowledge “the positive contributions that the Bergson Group made in raising American awareness of the Holocaust and in advocating Jewish rescue.”

The changes will be made in the Museum’s segment concerning the War Refugee Board, a U.S. government agency that was belatedly established by President Franklin Roosevelt, in 1944, as a result of pressure by the Bergson Group, Members of Congress, and Treasury Department officials. 

The Museum’s current exhibit panel on the creation of the War Refugee Board mentions only the role of the Treasury officials, not Bergson or Congress.  But the revised panel will include “visual materials and artifacts relating to the Bergson Group,” Dr. Luckert pledged in his letter to the Wyman Institute.

Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff said:

“The Wyman Institute applauds the U. S. Holocaust Museum’s pledge to correct the omission of the Bergson Group from its Permanent Exhibit.  We trust that the corrected exhibit will clearly acknowledge the Bergson Group’s vital role in the process leading to creation of the War Refugee Board, including its march by 400 rabbis in Washington and its crucial work with Members of Congress to promote rescue.”


BACKGROUND:

In August 2002, Dr. Rafael Medoff sent the chief curator of the U.S. Holocaust Museum, Dr. Steven Luckert, information about the Bergson Group’s role in the creation of the War Refugee Board, and urged the Museum to correct its omission of the Bergson Group from its panel on the Board.  On September 5, 2002, Dr. Luckert wrote back that the Museum’s panel on the Board would be “redone,” and “the contribution of the Bergson Group to the formation of the WRB should be mentioned.”   

On March 8, 2005, Dr. Medoff and a delegation of sons and daughters of Bergson Group activists met with Dr. Luckert; Stephen Goodell, Director of Exhibitions; and Alice Greenwald, Associate Director of Public Programs, to again explain why the Bergson Group should be added to the Museum’s Permanent Exhibit. 

On June 17, 2007, Nobel Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, in his keynote address to the Wyman Institute’s national conference in New York City, urged the U.S. Holocaust Museum to add material about the Bergson Group to its Permanent Exhibit.

On July 22, 2007, the Wyman Institute sent the Museum a petition signed by 110 prominent Holocaust scholars and Jewish leaders --including top leaders of Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Judaism-- urging recognition of the Bergson Group’s efforts. 

On July 29, 2007, the Wyman Institute faxed the Museum a petition signed by 185 relatives of the 400 rabbis who took part in the Bergson Group’s 1943 march in Washington, urging the Museum to add Bergson and the march to its Permanent Exhibit. 

On July 30, 2007, Dr. Luckert wrote to the Wyman Institute that the  Museum will change its Permanent Exhibit “by early spring of 2008” in order to acknowledge “the positive contributions that the Bergson Group made in raising American awareness of the Holocaust and in advocating Jewish rescue.”  The changes, in the segment concerning the War Refugee Board, will include “visual materials and artifacts relating to the Bergson Group" and its role in bringing about creation of the Board, Dr. Luckert wrote.

(For the text of the petitions and a list of the signatories, please call the Wyman Institute at 202-434-8994.)


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