Winnipeg’s Holocaust centre is getting a new look

Belle Jarniewski, director of Winnipeg's Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada

After more than 10 years, it’s time for Winnipeg’s Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre to be refurbished, updated and modernized.

The centre, which is part of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, was founded in 1998 by survivors of the Holocaust who lived in Manitoba.

“It’s been many years since the last redesign and curating of the museum,” said Belle Jarniewski, director of the Heritage Centre.

“Today we need to utilize best practices, engaging displays and new technology to continue to tell their stories and to educate about this tragic chapter in our history,” she added.

What makes the centre unique is all of the artifacts were donated by members of the Jewish community in Manitoba.

“We don’t collect items from all over,” she said. “This makes it so much more personal.”

Among the treasured items donated by local Holocaust survivors are posters from the Lodz Ghetto in Yiddish, German and Polish signed by Chaim Rumkowski, head of the Jewish Council of Elders in the ghetto.

The centre also has copies of newspapers clandestinely published in the ghetto.

“These are incredible pieces of history that speak to a different kind of resistance, not only fighting,” Jarniewski said, noting that is a theme she wants to develop in the refurbished space.

The refurbishing will include updating of best practices for museums, such as revising some of the language on panels in the centre.

By way of example, Jarniewski noted the word “Gypsy” is now considered inappropriate; the preferred word is “Roma.”

There is also a need to update technology to provide better access to online resources such as the Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, she said.

“We want a dedicated laptop for that so we can make those resources available to a wider community,” she added.

Cost of the updating is estimated to be $75,000 to $85,000; the centre has applied for grants and welcomes donations. Jarniewski hopes it will be completed by early next year.

Jarniewski has a special message for former Winnipeggers who are Holocaust survivors, and their children and grandchildren, who are now living in other parts of Canada.

“If they are downsizing and wanting to donate items related to the Holocaust, give them to us,” she said, noting a few weeks ago she received two photo albums from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

“We can add them to the collection. We want to highlight the resilience of survivors from Manitoba and the contributions they made to the province after the war.”

The Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre is located on the Asper Community Campus in southwest Winnipeg.

For more information, or to donate, visit the website of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada.

The best is yet to come.

This website—the one you’re on right now—is just the tip of the iceberg. The CJN is building a whole new platform, which will be launching summer 2021. Jewish Canadians will be able to find community events, listen to relevant podcasts, connect with national networks and, of course, read breaking news stories, in-depth analysis and unique perspectives that matter. Subscribe to our newsletter, and follow us on social media, to be the first to see our newest iteration go live.