Heroism in Unjust Times

Heroism in Unjust Times: Rescuers During the Holocaust

Wednesday, May 3rd through Friday, August 11th
Michael Klahr Center, University of Maine campus
46 University Drive, Augusta

Medal of the Righteous Among the Nations

Despite the potentially fatal consequences, thousands of individuals risked their lives to help those targeted by the Nazis. Heroism in Unjust Times: Rescuers During the Holocaust, celebrates and honors those righteous individuals. The exhibit shares stories of individuals and their descendants who were saved by these rescuers and settled in Maine and nearby.

Heroism in Unjust Times is presented in partnership with the Sousa Mendes Foundation, Yad Vashem, Darrell English, Julie Lanoie, Joan Lanoie, Jennie Blair, Mona Pearl Treyball, Walt Bannon and Jean-Claude van Itallie.

Exhibit items include a medal of the Righteous Among the Nations: On May 6, 2007, the commission for the designation of the righteous, established by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Heroes and Martyrs Remembrance Authority located in Israel, honored Allegonda Peper-Balte with the medal of the Righteous Among the Nations. It is the only civilian medal Israel awards and it is given to non-Jews who saved the life of a Jew during the Holocaust at a personal risk to themselves. Allegonda Peper-Balte helped 45 Jews through the Dutch Resistance.

“The Journey That Saved Curious George” is about Sousa Mendes visa recipients Hans and Margaret Rey, the creators of Curious George.

The exhibit also features the story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches. Sousa Mendes was the Portuguese Consul-General stationed in Bordeaux, France. In May and June of 1940, after the fall of the Low Countries and France, he issued Portuguese visas to thousands of desperate refugees fleeing the Nazi advance. A few months earlier, the Portuguese government of António Salazar had issued a decree, “Circular 14,” forbidding Portuguese diplomats from issuing visas to Jews and other “undesirables.” Sousa Mendes defied this order and followed his conscience instead. “I cannot let all these people die,” he declared. The Portuguese government reacted swiftly, dismissing Sousa Mendes from his post and recalling him to Portugal, where he was put on trial and found guilty of “disobedience.” He had 15 children, and the entire family was blacklisted and socially shunned.

Hans and Margret Rey, authors of Curious George, were Sousa Mendes visa recipients. They escaped with the manuscript to the first Curious George book, which was then published in New York in 1941.

Resistance Commemorative Cross

The exhibit also features a Resistance Commemorative Cross (left) awarded to Allegonda Peper-Balte on October 29, 1981 by the Dutch Government for her work with the Dutch Underground organization from 1940-1945. She was one of thousands of Dutch or former Dutch citizens to receive this honor.

In addition, there is a stuffed bunny (right) carried during the exodus by Dutch Sousa Mendes visa recipient Ellen Heymans, age 8.

A stuffed bunny, on loan from Karen Hammonds.

This exhibit has been made possible with the generous support of Kennebec Savings Bank.  Kennebec Savings Bank fosters a culture of giving through its Community Dividends Program that supports over 300 local organizations across the 30 communities they serve. To learn more about Kennebec Savings Bank, visit them online.

Klahr Center hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on weekends and evenings by appointment.  For more information call (207) 621-3530.