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Exhibit Opening in Darmstadt

The ITS exhibit "‘Where should we have gone after the liberation?‘ Transit Stations - Displaced Persons after 1945“ was opened in the Hessian State Archives in Darmstadt. This is now the sixth station of the exhibit that will be on display there until 24 October 2016. The exhibit is dedicated to the fates of the more than ten million Displaced Persons (DPs) the Allies freed in 1945 in concentration camps or from forced labor.

More than 70 visitors found their way to the "Haus der Geschichte" (House of History) at the Karolinenplatz to attend the opening of the exhibit, among them Przemysław Gembiak, Vice Consul of the Republic of Poland. The head of the State Archive, Dr. Johannes Kistenich-Zerfaß, emphasized in his welcoming address that the exhibit was a striking illustration of the paths people took "from the status of an object debased to being a mere camp number towards an autonomous subject with human dignity and individuality". And yet, even after the end of the Nazi Regime, these people continued to be exposed to ill will, resentment, and anti-Semitism.

The curator of the exhibit, Dr. Susanne Urban, Managing Director of the ShUM-Cities Association and previously the Head of the Research and Education Branch at  ITS, acknowleged that dealing so closely with the world of the DPs has "changed, moved, and above of all, enriched" her. She expressed particular thanks to all the contemporary witnesses who had been so open in sharing their stories with her for the exhibit. "So many survivors live life as though balancing on a tightrope, driven by the courage to live, yet deeply grief-stricken, facing this abyss of memories below them."

Dr. Holger Köhn from the Büro für Erinnerungskultur (Office for Culture of Remembrance) gave the opening lecture "Displaced Persons after 1945 – Life in Transit.  Transit stations in Southern Hesse", in which he described four former Hessian DP-camps.  Köhn explained the conflicts that arose between the local residents and DPs, but he also mentioned the mutual trade relations that existed, for example on the black market, with the domestic help, or in tilling gardens. After most of the DPs had emigrated, the issue of their situation was widely forgotten. "I am so pleased that the ITS exhibit can be seen in Darmstadt. This will help us recall the story of the DPs in our collective memory", says Köhn.

Students at Darmstadt Technical University added to the ITS exhibit four display cabinets they prepared, showing additional regional and local references to the topic. "It was an interesting project", said David Görlitz, one of the students involved. "It showed us how we as teachers to-be can help our pupils better understand the work of an archive." An attractive academic-pedagogical accompanying program opened up further multi-perspective ways to approach the topic. In the coming weeks the Darmstadt Archive and Museum Education team will be training pupils to guide tours through the exhibit.

Time period: 1 September until 24 October 2016
Location: Hessian State Archives Darmstadt, Karolinenplatz 3, 64289 Darmstadt
Opening hours: Monday, 9:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Free admittance