BILLINGS — The Billings Public Library is one of 50 libraries in the U.S. to be selected to host a traveling Holocaust exhibit.
The “Americans and the Holocaust” exhibit, put on by the American Library Association and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, explores “what Americans of the 1930s and ’40s knew about Nazism and Jewish persecution as history unfolded,” a library pamphlet reads.
Some exhibit-goers have a personal connection to the Holocaust and said Tuesday they are happy to see something like this in Billings.
“My dad helped liberate one of the death camps,” says Linda Nelson of Billings. “I wish my dad was still alive, I would have asked him some questions, more questions. At the time when he was sharing that with me, I didn’t know a lot that was going on, but he told me about it.”
Nelson explains that she graduated from Billings West High School in the 1960s and doesn’t recall learning anything about the Holocaust in school.
“I was so taken in last weekend when we came in and saw this,” Nelson explains. “It’s amazing, and more people need to understand what’s going on. They have no idea.”
But Nelson isn’t the only Billings resident with a personal connection.
Uri Barnea is a retired rabbi who resides in Billings. He has lived in the city off and on since the 1980s and says that Billings has a dark past toward people like him of Jewish descent.
“In 1993 and even before, there were a lot of racist activities. My home was the first one to be attacked, I got KKK literature at my door,” explains Barnea.
Barnea said his parents fled from Berlin, Germany to Palestine in 1940.
“They survived. They were put in a British detention camp for 10 months because the British had a mandate on Palestine at that time,” says Barnea.
Barnea has since traveled around schools in Billings teaching youth of all ages about the Holocaust.
He was also invited to speak at the “Americans and the Holocaust” exhibit on Nov. 14 and Dec. 14.
“I encourage people at the exhibit to look at the exhibit, and every person that they see on the panels to say to themselves, ‘I could’ve been that person. Whether a victim or a perpetrator,’” explains Barnea. “If you can think, if you can influence, especially the younger generation, if you can bring children depending on the age, to tell them that we have to be very careful in what we say and what we do.”
The exhibit is free and will be at the Billings Public Library until Dec. 20. To learn more, call (406) 657–8255 or email email@example.com.
“I live the Holocaust almost on a daily basis, so the exhibit itself is great that it’s here,” Barnea explains. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity, especially for people that don’t deal with something like that on a daily basis.”