Stories of innocence and loss


Part of one of the panels featured in the exhibit

It took more than 70 years for their stories to emerge from the shadows.

In 2016 a group of German high school students researched what had happened to 19 area Jewish families during the Holocaust. Cordula Kappner, a German librarian, who for decades had used her genealogical-research skills to provide details about the fate of German Jews during World War II, directed their efforts.

Last November, this project, Vergissmeinnicht [Forget-Me-Not]: What Children’s Stories Can Teach Us about the Holocaust, was hosted by TU, thanks to funding from The Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund, the Baltimore Hebrew Institute of Towson University and BTU.

The German students expanded Kappner’s research, designing an exhibition comprising 23 panels—four to provide background and the remainder dedicated to the children.

The Vergissmeinnicht project gave the German teens a better understanding of their own history, says Joyce Garczynski, TU assistant librarian for development and communication.

“The presentation helps make the history even more moving,” Garczynski says. “The panels are pop-up banners with full-size photos of individual children. It hits you that these were real people.

Because the stories are told in the present tense, you stop thinking of the children in the past tense. They have a chance to live again.”

Towson resident Fred Katz is one of the subjects whose wartime experience is depicted on a panel.

Katz, a sociologist and author, escaped the Holocaust and later emigrated to the United States. For years he corresponded with Kappner to learn more about his family’s fate. (All perished.) Now marking his 90th birthday, Katz attended the exhibition to share his story.

Cook Library displayed the panels for two weeks, then Garczynski sought a venue in the Baltimore Jewish community.