Auschwitz exhibit to arrive at Union Station next June
By Tyler Schneider
There were just south of 500 people watching online when George Guastello, President and CEO of Union Station, made the “very important and significant announcement” that a new exhibit, “Auschwitz. Not Long Ago. Not Far Away,” would be opening at Union Station’s Bank of America Gallery in June of 2021.
The travelling exhibit — which will make its United States debut in New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust before making a second and final U.S. stop in Kansas City — has been in the works for five years, according to Guastello.
“KC has earned a stellar reputation for an appetite and appreciation for historical and culturally relevant exhibitions,” Guastello said in the opening minutes of the Tuesday announcement. “Our professional team has taken trips to Poland, Portugal and Madrid, working diligently to bring this exhibition to Kansas City before it has to return to Europe.”
The exhibition — conceived by Musealia and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum — will feature more than 700 original artifacts and 400 photographs “on loan from more than 20 institutions and private collections around the world.”
After making the initial reveal, Guastello showed the official museum trailer for the exhibit, with texts like “a story to shake the conscience of the world” narrating powerful images from the Auschwitz era. Guastello then welcomed exhibition director Luis Ferreiro to speak on his own behalf via a remote video session.
“Back in 2014, I had the pleasure to meet the management team of Union Station. From that very moment — when the exhibition was still just a project — they expressed sincere interest in bringing this story to Kansas City,” Ferreiro said.
The fateful meeting happened in Atlanta that year. When the two men were introduced, the topic soon turned to how they could make a Kansas City stop a reality in the coming years.
Ramón Murguía, Chairman of the Union Station Board of Directors, took to the podium next, where he described the contents of the exhibit as a timely “topic that is for everyone.”
“This is a story that must be told,” Murguía continued. “We’re deeply honored to be telling it here as one of just two U.S. tour stops. I’d like to thank Bank of America for immediately recognizing the importance of this exhibition.”
Another “essential partner” in this process, according to Murguía, is the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, led by executive director Jessica Rockhold. The MCHE will help bolster the exhibit with a series of presentations and community discussions to the fold once the exhibit officially opens its doors next summer.
“This brings it full circle for us. It was twenty years ago that we first partnered with Union Station on what was MCHE’s first experience with a travelling exhibition,” Rockhold told the crowd and online viewership. “This exhibition explores the entire scope of the Holocaust and is dedicated to education, which, as an organization, is our number one priority. It’s what we do.”
The exhibition promises to “explore the dual identity of the camp as a physical location—the largest documented mass murder site in human history—and as a symbol of the borderless manifestation of hatred and human barbarity,” according to text from the Union Station website announcement.
“When we think of perpetrators, we often think of victims. But the truth is that it exists on a spectrum of responsibility, where most people did not perpetuate and were not victims — they were collaborators with varying levels of complicity. Some were rescuers, but the vast majority were in the indifferent middle. This [exhibit] challenges us to consider where we land on a spectrum of responsibility in our world today, and what our responsibilities are as citizens in the world in the challenges we currently face,” Rockhold said.
Though no specific date has been nailed down at this point, Guastello closed the press session with the subsequent announcement of VIP tickets that will be made available for purchase prior to the exhibit’s unveiling in June of 2021.
Proceeds collected on these VIP ticket sales will go towards maintaining the exhibit itself, while holders of the VIP ticket will have access to the exhibition “when you want it, when you need it,” according to Guastello.