They lived through one of the worst atrocities in human history — 52 Jews who survived the Holocaust — and eventually journeyed to Minnesota and rebuilt their lives.
Now their portraits and stories have been captured at the “Transfer of Memory” photo exhibition, on display at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport through Feb. 5.
The traveling exhibition was launched in 2011 and has been viewed by more than 80,000 people across the Upper Midwest. But its placement at MSP as Minneapolis prepares to host the Super Bowl could bring its largest audience yet.
“What a great place to learn about the Holocaust and the lessons the survivors can teach us,” said Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), which curated the exhibit.
Thirteen of the photographs will be on display near Gate C18 in Terminal 1 (Lindbergh), and 31 photos will be hung in the gallery near Gate H3 Terminal 2 (Humphrey).
“It’s an amazing venue,” said JCRC staffer Laura Zelle, who curated the exhibition with Susie Greenberg.
JCRC partnered with the Metropolitan Airports Commission and the nonprofit Airport Foundation to bring the exhibit to the airport.
Photographer David Sherman pitched the idea of a Holocaust survivor exhibition to the JCRC nearly a decade ago. He photographed all the Minnesotans who either survived concentration camps or went into hiding as children during World War II. Lili Chester, the child of two survivors, wrote the text for the exhibit. About one-third of the survivors featured have died since the exhibit opened, underscoring the project’s sense of urgency.
Reva Kibort of St. Louis Park attended the exhibit unveiling Thursday at MSP. Kibort, 84, and her husband Ben, who died in 2012, both survived the Holocaust and are featured in the exhibit.
Kibort, dressed elegantly and sporting red polished nails, still cries while sharing her story. But she said it must be told.
“There are still a lot of people that don’t believe the Holocaust existed. They deny it,” she said. And some members of the younger generation don’t know the history, she said. Kibort recently spoke at a college and found that some students had never heard of the Holocaust.
Kibort, who was born in Poland, arrived in Minnesota an orphan at the age of 14. Nearly her entire family died at the hands of the Nazis.
She survived the bombings, the German occupation of Poland, and the starvation, sickness and liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto. She survived a work camp, where she polished bullets for German guns. She was sent to the United States after the Russians liberated the camp.
She married a native of Lithuania who had survived concentration camps and death marches. They settled in Minnesota and raised three children who became a doctor, nurse and children’s camp director.
Greenberg said the photos of the smiling, accomplished survivors send a message of hope, resilience and renewal.
“Your voices have been heard. Your stories documented. Your words will continue to teach us,” she said.