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General Exhibition

The Toronto Holocaust Museum’s core exhibition is divided into four central Galleries: Persecution, Atrocity & Devastation, Liberation & Aftermath, and Life in Canada, grounding the history in time, space and context.

Exhibition Overview

What you'll see in the space

Each Gallery uses a carefully curated approach that blends historical photographs and artifacts with contextual descriptions and compelling interactives to offer a diverse and nuanced exploration of the Holocaust that promotes Jewish voices, agency, and experience. At the heart of this experience are voices of Canadian Holocaust survivors who tell of devastation, loss, resistance, and courage. These are accessible via hundreds of short testimony clips prominently featured in large-scale interactive stations located throughout the galleries. The Museum text, drawn from contemporary scholarship, best practices, and a peer review process, frames the subject with a nuanced telling of the broader events. Digital timelines and maps situate the experience in time and geography, and historical photographs chosen for their complexity and storytelling offer a visual understanding of the broader historical experience. Panels that share the concurrent events taking place in Canada offer additional, local context and opportunities for visitor meaning making. These components come together to engage the visitor, guiding them to explore and consider the legacy of the Holocaust that reverberates today. The experience avoids providing simple accounts of complex events and is designed to stimulate further learning and exploration. Ultimately, the visitor is inspired to continue learning about the Holocaust and its ongoing relevance.

The Approach

Inquiry and discovery

Throughout the Museum questions guide the experience recognizing and reinforcing for learners that the Holocaust was carried out by individuals and it happened to individuals – real people. These questions remind us that agency and choices are key not only to this history but to our lives today. Visitors are presented with nuanced questions that explore the core of human behaviour and inspire self reflection and their roles in civil society. Most importantly, they reinforce that the Holocaust did not just happen. It took many people, choices and circumstances for things to turn out the way it did and that the Jewish people resisted myriad and unbelievable ways.

To create a centre to teach and remember became the most important project of my life. “Remember us” became a commandment. I dedicated my life to that cause and I will pass the torch of remembrance to future generations.

Gerda Frieberg, z”l Holocaust Survivor & Educator

Azrieli Legacy Hall

Immerse yourself in prewar life the mezzanine space

The Azrieli Legacy Hall at the Toronto Holocaust Museum. Photo by Vito Amati.

Various touchpoints throughout the exhibition explore the diversity and richness of life before the Holocaust. Beginning in the Azrieli Legacy Hall (Mezzanine), before entering into the Museum, visitors are surrounded by photo banners showcasing Jewish life across Europe. Also situated in the Mezzanine, is the first of 11 Holocaust survivor testimony stations. This station introduces visitors to the interactive experience they will encounter throughout the Museum and allows them to delve into the lives of individuals and communities prior to the Holocaust. Prewar life is also explored in the Theatre through A Tapestry of Moments: Jewish Life Before the Holocaust, an immersive film experiences surrounding the visitor in video, sounds, and imagery showcasing the breadth of Jewish life.

The Galleries

  • In the first of four Galleries, we explore persecutions beginning in 1933, when Jewish life in Europe began to fundamentally change. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party took control of Germany in 1933 through a series of events, manipulations, and legal action. They consolidated power and promoted a racist ideology to justify violent attacks on Jews, homosexuals, disabled individuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma and Sinti, and Afro-Germans. Persecution of Jews culminated with the so-called “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” the deliberate mass murder of European Jews, implemented between 1941 and 1945.

     

    The Jack Weinbaum Family Foundation Gallery | Persecution

  • The second Gallery begins with the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, the start of the Second World War, which would eventually bring millions of Jews under German control. As their troops rapidly conquered the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, even Jews who fled to places they hoped would be safer ended up trapped under Nazi rule. As conditions deteriorated, many Jews attempted to escape, join resistance movements, or go into hiding, facing insurmountable odds. By 1942, Nazi Germany and the Axis powers controlled most of Europe and parts of North Africa. Massive killing operations began in July 1941, when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. Millions of people were shot by mobile killing squads and gassed in killing centres. By 1945, the Germans, their allies, and collaborators had murdered two out of every three Jews in Europe. 

     

    The Gottdenker and Zuckerbrot Families Gallery | Atrocity and Devastation

  • Focusing on the liberation of Europe by the Allied Forces beginning in 1944 and into 1945, this Gallery highlights experiences of thousands of people freed from camps, death marches, and sites of atrocity. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered unconditionally. Allied troops were shocked to encounter sites of Nazi crimes with masses of human remains, emaciated survivors, and people emerging from hiding. With time, survivors realized that their families had been murdered. Even if their homes still existed, it was not always safe to return. Many lived in displaced persons camps until they could eventually emigrate or settle elsewhere.

     

    In Memory of Honey Sherman | Liberation and Aftermath

  • The final Gallery showcases life in Canada for Holocaust survivors beginning with their immigration experiences. Canada’s restrictions on immigration finally loosened in 1947. By 1955, approximately 35,000 survivors and their young children arrived. Their experiences varied depending on when they arrived, their age, whether they were orphans or in a family unit, and if they had Canadian relatives. Though Jewish welfare agencies worked hard to aid survivors, the agencies were frequently challenged to meet their needs. Many factors contributed to the difficulty survivors faced in their initial years in Canada, including language and financial barriers, not feeling welcome, and a culture of silence surrounding the trauma they had endured. 

     

    The Green Fischer Family Gallery | Life in Canada

I hope that with all my heart and all my soul that you, the new generation, will learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and will not allow discrimination or prejudice of any kind into your lives. Each one of you can make our world a better place for all of us to enjoy in peace.

Felicia Carmelly, z”l Holocaust Survivor & Educator

The Memorial

A space for reflection

Rendering of the Memorial at the Toronto Holocaust Museum. Courtesy of Reich & Petch Design International. Supported by Harry and Malka Rosenbaum.
Rendering of the Memorial at the Toronto Holocaust Museum. Courtesy of Reich & Petch Design International. Supported by Harry and Malka Rosenbaum.

The specially designed Memorial space is a place for reflection and remembrance. Surrounding you in the space are the names of thousands of individuals and communities who were murdered in the Holocaust. Dedicated by Toronto-based Holocaust survivors, this space carries the names of those in the original memorial space in the former Holocaust Education Centre at the Lipa Green Centre. The ode to forestry was carefully chosen for its tranquility, and as a symbol of all that took place throughout the forests of Europe, especially Poland, and the juxtaposition of the beautiful landscape of Canadian forestry that exists across this vast country.

 

Memorial | Harry and Malka Rosenbaum