New Jacksonville exhibit honors life of women during Holocaust

Exhibit at Holocaust Memorial Gallery keeps memories alive to honor victims, survivors

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, News4Jax visited a new exhibit at a local gallery that recognizes a time that reshaped the lives of generations of people.

Currently, there are over 100 Holocaust survivors in the River City.

The Spots of Light -- To Be A Woman in the Holocaust exhibit at the Frisch Family Holocaust Memorial Gallery highlights women’s roles during the Holocaust.

“My mother suffered a great deal. She had to give her son away to a non-Jewish family. She had to terminate a pregnancy when doctors weren’t allowed to treat women," said Yvonne Cohen, whose parents survived the Holocaust. "The women that were left at home had to do everything. They had to take care of the children, they had to work, they had to feed themselves, they had to run the whole household.”

The exhibit at the Jewish Family & Community Services headquarters will be open to the public starting Tuesday.

It features nine aspects of the Jewish woman’s daily life during the Holocaust: Love, Motherhood, Caring for Others, Womanhood, Resistance and Rescue, Friendship, Faith, Food and the Arts.

Each aspect is accompanied by a personal story, related in the first person.

“History has a way of repeating itself and that’s something that we don’t want to ever happen again here in the United States or anywhere in the world. So people need to know the stories, understand the horror that happened, understand how as other countries we came to that point and we need to be talking about it so it doesn’t happen again,” said Colleen Rodriguez, CEO of Jewish Family & Community Services.

Cohen said a woman named Gien Dane hid her mother and father for more than two and a half years in Nazi-occupied Holland.

While in hiding, they had to make the decision to send their son, Tommy, to live with a non-Jewish family, as it was very dangerous to hide a baby. Dane would take the train to pick up Tommy and bring him to her home so he could visit with his parents.

“There is so much trauma and so much emotional turmoil that people deal with. It’s PTSD. It’s exactly the same thing,” Cohen said.

Cohen said there were many close calls for her parents when Nazis came to search Dane’s apartment, and they regularly practiced escaping to their hiding places to prepare for the searches. Cohen said her father’s entire family was killed during the genocide.

She was reunited with Tommy after the war, and she and Dane remained close friends for another 60 years. In fact, Cohen still maintains a relationship with Dane’s daughter and granddaughters.

“You have to never forget. We have to pass these stories on,” Cohen said. “Prejudice is all around us in many forms. Anti-Semitism is definitely on the rise all over the world, even in the United States. And a lot of people are forgetting that this happened. We can’t forget, because history does repeat itself."

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