"'Stay together' my mother said… We wanted to stay together, like everyone else. Family unity is one of our important traditions, as the enemy well knew. And he now used that knowledge, spreading the rumor in the ghetto that the Jewish population would be transferred to Hungarian labor camp where – and this was the essential thing – families would remain together. And we believed it. So it was that the strength of our family tie, which had contributed to the survival of our people for centuries, became a tool in the exterminator's hands."
Elie Wiesel, All Rivers Run to the Sea
In this exhibition, we follow the stories of a range of Jewish families and their destinies in the pivotal year of 1944.
In 1944, the demise of Nazi Germany was already on the horizon. The German army, suffering defeat after defeat, was slowly pushed back towards Germany. And yet, despite the military losses, the Nazi extermination machine continued to operate at full throttle. 1944 was the year in which the last remaining Jews in Greece, Italy, France, Holland, Slovakia and Germany were sent to their deaths; the year in which the Jews of Hungary were deported to Auschwitz, and the last remaining ghettos of Lodz and Kovno were liquidated. In the selfsame year, Minsk and Vilna in the east had already been liberated, as had Paris and Rome in the west.
Confronted with a brutal reality of ongoing persecution, Jewish families tried desperately to save their members from a seemingly inescapable fate.