Portraits of 161 Calgary Holocaust survivors on display starting Friday

Powerful portraits of 161 Holocaust survivors will line the walls of Glenbow at The Edison starting May 27, 2022.

It's been 77 years since the death camps of the Holocaust were finally shut down.

A new exhibit opens Friday, sharing the stories of 161 survivors who came to call Calgary home in the years after the war.

Here To Tell features portraits and stories of resilience and dignity in the aftermath of the horrors of the Shoah.

Eva Muskovitch was born in 1930 in Czechoslovakia, and was one of eight children. Along with their parents, three brothers were sent to work camps in Russia. The rest went to the most notorious death camp of the Holocaust.

"I was 13 years old in Auschwitz and it's a miracle that I survived," Muskovitch said.

"All my brothers and sisters survived, but my parents didn't, and my aunts and cousins," she said, trailing off.

The exhibit also includes a documentary film that allows visitors to hear the voices of survivors.

"Our images are all in black and white because think it shows both the hope and the despair of their experiences – and that's what happens when we meet our Holocaust survivors," said exhibit co-producer and co-creator Marnie Bondar.

"They've seen the worst in humanity and what can happen when people turn against people."

For Bondar, the project is deeply personal. All four of her grandparents survived the Holocaust. She was especially close with her grandmother Freda Plucer, who died in January 2020.

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Plucer was captured by the Nazis, and in December of 1942, transported to Auschwitz in a sealed cattle car. Allowed just one shoe, she was put to work loading the bodies of dead prisoners whose only crime was being Jewish. She was 20 years old.

Plucer survived on scraps of food found in the pockets of the dead. She survived and eventually came to Calgary more than a decade after the war, where she raised her children.

"I think the takeaway that's unique to this exhibit is, it's not just what they lived through then, it's what our survivors went on to accomplish with their lives," Bondar said, at times becoming emotional as she recalls the gentle dignity and love of her grandmother.

"When you speak them, a lot talk about how grateful and lucky they felt to come to Calgary and Canada.

Muskovitch also raised a family in Calgary, where she moved in 1964. She says it was difficult learning English, and she and her husband often struggled to get by, but she never lost her pride or her energy to keep living.

"My heart is beating. As I can't describe. And it's so wonderful," Muskovitch said, smiling.

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She says she's proud of the exhibit and the witness it bears to the millions of lives lost and the countless others it changed forever.

"It's my life. It was my life, it was my [everything]. It was my parents. It was everybody who lived that. I wish I could speak to my friends. I speak, but they don't speak," said Muskovitch.

"We are soon going to be in a world without Holocaust survivors, and so part of our job is preserve the history and ensure their experiences are not forgotten," Bondar said, adding it is the responsibility of humanity to remember and to be on guard for future generations.

The exhibit comes as Jewish Human rights group B'Nai Brith says it tracked nearly 2,800 anti-Semitic incidents in Canada last year alone - the sixth consecutive record setting year.

The exhibit opens Friday at The Glenbow at Edison.

Tickets are free but you're encouraged to make reservations.

Because of some of the images, it's recommended for ages 15 and up.