Arts & Affairs Features

“Courage to Act: Rescue in Denmark”

Photo courtesy of The Museum of Jewish Heritage

“Courage to Act: Rescue in Denmark,” a new exhibition about the extraordinary rescue of Denmark’s Jewish population in 1943 opened at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

“Courage to Act: Rescue in Denmark” commemorates—through archival materials, photographs, recordings, testimonials and other artifacts—one of the most effective and exceptional instances of mass resistance in modern history. This inspiring moment of individual and collective action raises the daunting question: do you have the courage to act?

Despite the enormous risk, Jewish and non-Jewish neighbors of all ages mobilized to evacuate thousands of Danish Jews to Sweden, as threats of deportations increased. Together, these ordinary citizens united against Nazism and saved nearly 95% of Denmark’s 7,800-person Jewish population.

Designed for visitors ages nine and up, the exhibition incorporates themes of bravery and resilience to help young people make connections to their own lives and reflect on the dangers of prejudice, as well as their own potential for moral and courageous action.

Regina Skyer, vice board chair of the museum and founder of Law Offices of Regina Skyer and Associates, New York’s premier special education law firm, said, “Courage to Act,” is a special opportunity to reflect on the Holocaust, one of the darkest moments in history, while also considering our individual capacity to act with bravery. These are lessons we can all remember in times of moral difficulty, and they’re particularly important for children as they grapple with our past and build our future.”

Created in conjunction with the award-winning firm Local Projects, “Courage to Act” uses state-of-the-art technology and creative storytelling, including dynamic hologram-like technology, to immerse visitors in the story, allowing them to hear directly from the past through the stories of people who engaged in the rescue and whose lives were saved.

“We’ve been fortunate to work with Local Projects to bring this innovative exhibition to life and discover new ways to educate the public, particularly young people, through engaging technology,” said Jack Kliger, museum president and CEO. “As the number of Holocaust survivors decreases and we confront resurgent antisemitism, we must proactively engage new generations in the fight for a better world. Our charge is to inspire and equip young people to be compassionate citizens and leaders.”

The project director for “Courage to Act” is Ellen Bari, the author and creator of award-winning, multimedia exhibits and programs for children and adults. Bari’s own family was forced into the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia, where the Danish Jews who were not rescued were also sent. “Eighty years later it seems almost impossible that the people of Denmark took such acts courage,” said Bari. “Yet those who risked their lives to save their neighbors saw it as simply ‘the right thing to do.’ It’s the simplicity of that reasoning that underscores how truly incredible this story is. I am honored to share these acts of courage with young people, as they think about opportunities in their own lives for positive action and their own potential.As the Talmud says, ‘to save a life, is to save the entire world.’ We all have that potential.”

Working alongside Bari, the Ukrainian artist Sveta Dorosheva and Bomb author Steve Sheinkin serve as the illustrator and scriptwriter, respectively. Interactive Discovery Walls will allow visitors to look back in time as they open windows, part curtains, or step into a depiction of the Copenhagen Synagogue and be transported back to 1943 via video, photographs and audio. “Courage to Act” will also feature three hologram-like narrators, based on real individuals, who will share experiences of the Danish occupation and rescue throughout the exhibition.

In a climate of widespread antisemitism and Holocaust denial, “Courage to Act” will address a critical need by reaching younger children. The Museum is also developing educational materials, prepared by Bari, Museum VP of Education Elizabeth Edelstein, and the Museum’s education team that will be available to schools around the country. In addition, an extensive online museum experience will be created for people who cannot attend the exhibition in person.