The Courage to Care exhibition is a positive and inspiring experience. The exhibition addresses contemporary issues of prejudice and discrimination by demonstrating the power of the individual to make a difference if he or she is willing to stand up and take action to help someone in need. The results of even the smallest caring action can be extraordinary.
Using World War II and the Holocaust as an example, the exhibition demonstrates the impact of discrimination through personal stories, encouraging understanding of, and empathy for, people experiencing disadvantage. By highlighting and honouring the courage of ordinary people who, even in the face of great personal risk, took action to help others in the past, the exhibition challenges visitors to critically reflect on their personal values today. Through its positive message, the exhibition inspires and empowers participants to not be bystanders, but to take positive action when they witness injustice in their everyday lives.
The Courage to Care exhibition is presented through four themes:
The first theme outlines the ways in which discriminatory Nazi policies were introduced, and shows how they restricted the lives of people first in Germany, then in the occupied countries. It demonstrates how discrimination can become institutionalised, adversely affecting every every aspect of the victims’ lives.
Historical objects, such as the infamous yellow stars and other personal memorabilia, are powerful examples of the ways in which propaganda and discrimination directly undermines and damages the lives of victims. Visitors are challenged to consider, “does this still happen today, and how?”
Exhibition Panel: Estimated Jewish Losses in the Holocaust
In Black: Numbers of Jews before the war
In White: Estimated losses
The second theme focuses on the experience of the individual. It illustrates what it is like to be rendered powerless and demonstrates how victims felt and responded as a direct result of intolerance and intimidation. Fear caused people to assume false identities or to go into hiding, or to be on the run for years, always in search of a secure hiding place.
The stories in this section bring to life the way in which Nazi discrimination directly affected people’s’ lives. They challenge us to reflect on how discrimination is experienced today, and to consider, “how would we have reacted then and how do we respond in similar situations today?”
Exhibition Panel: Cesha Glazer
The third theme outlines actions which made a difference to victims. The brutal implementation of Nazi policies was meant to subdue local populations and force them into compliance. However, they were often met with resistance from people who believed that what was happening was wrong. A resistance network developed across the continent. At great personal risk, members devised countless ways to save lives.
In this section, the desperate need of the victim is linked with the courageous acts of the rescuer. We see the extraordinary results of the actions of individuals and groups who refused to remain passive bystanders.
Visitors are invited to question themselves, “would I have remained a bystander, or would I have taken action?”
Exhibition Panel: Raoul Wallenberg
Raoul Wallenberg was a man determined to save Hungarian Jews. In 1944, the young Swedish diplomat was sent to Budapest by the American War Refugee Board to achieve this end. Immediately he set about his mission, using two techniques. First, he designed impressive passports, decorated with the official seal of Sweden, stating that the bearer was under Swedish government protection. Next, he rented buildings to house people holding his passports, claiming that those living in these ‘Swedish Houses’ had diplomatic immunity. He established 32 ‘Swedish Houses’ in Budapest and issued thousands of passports.
Wallenberg disappeared into Soviet custody in 1945. His fate remains unknown, but it is believed that he died in a Soviet prison in 1947. The exact number of people Wallenberg saved is not known – it is estimated that the number could be as high as 100,000. His courage, brilliance and daring in saving many Jewish people during the Holocaust have ensured his eminent status as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’.
The fourth theme focuses on the individuals who chose to take positive action. What were the rescuers like? What was their motivation, why did they act to save lives when others did not? Almost invariably they say, “I only did what was right”.
This section reflects on the courage of these individuals and the consequences of their bravery. It challenges and inspires us to learn from their example and ask ourselves what we can do to make a meaningful contribution to our society today.
Exhibition Panel: Adrian and Bertha Vanas
The power and challenge of the exhibition is in the stories it tells – the stories of people who lived then and whose lives were directly affected, either as victims who were helped and became survivors, or as rescuers who stepped up to help when they saw people in need.
Amazing stories of survival are told – a three-month-old baby girl in Holland, a twelve-year-old in Poland, a man whose name was on Schindler’s list, a young man saved from a forced labour gang in Hungary, a family fleeing to safety across the vastness of Russia…
These are only some of the fascinating stories featured in the exhibition.
One couple in Holland hid five people for two years in their apartment across the street from the SS headquarters. An Englishman organised the evacuation of children to safety in England. Some used their official status in order to issue travel visas. Individuals and groups of people across Europe did what they could to save lives. Their stories command our respect and are our inspiration.
The message of the exhibition is not only about the past. There are many people today who demonstrate the same courageous involvement and integrity as the rescuers whose stories we tell. In each exhibition location, Courage to Care honours a person from the local community, a local hero, who has bravely stood up against prejudice and discrimination, usually at personal cost to themselves. Through this, Courage to Care highlights to visitors how they, as individuals, within their own communities, can make a real difference today by choosing not to be bystanders.
The Student Experience
The two-hour Courage to Care education program is targeted at students in Years 5 – 12. It has been developed by professional educators, and includes audiovisual components, interactive workshops and experiential learning processes. Teachers are provided with complementary teaching materials to support pre-visit preparation as well as optional post-visit learning. A follow up personal response project also enables students to reflect on, and to embed, what they have learnt at the exhibition.
The program is flexible and adapted for different age groups and learning needs. It is supported by the NSW Department of Education and is recognised in the syllabus areas of History, HSIE, Geography, and PDHPE.
Planning Your Visit
The Courage to Care experience is most effective for students if combined with prior preparation about key components of the program.
Relevant topics include:
- Racism, stereotyping and anti-Semitism
- An introduction to WWII history and geography
- Genocides and the Holocaust
Teachers can prepare students by downloading ready-to-use lesson plans specially prepared to complement the Courage to Care program. Additional reference material and activities are also available.