April 27, 2000
FLIGHT AND RESCUE, FROM EASTERN EUROPE TO THE FAR EAST — A REMARKABLE STORY OF SURVIVAL
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Flight And Rescue, a major special exhibition that opens May 4, 2000 at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, tells the story of some 2,100 Polish Jews who escaped Eastern Europe through the Soviet Union to Japan during World War II. Approximately half of the refugees who arrived in Japan were unable to leave for other destinations prior to Japan’s entry into the war. They were eventually deported to Shanghai, China, and spent the remaining war years there.
A web of unsung heros around the world assisted in this escape. Japanese and Dutch diplomats issued visas and helped the refugees enter safer havens during a time in mid-1940 when borders and consulates were closing. U.S. and other relief organizations also played a major role.
A number of survivor stories are documented in this exhibition. In the course of its 18-month run, some 400 objects will be on display, collected from 12 countries, 43 institutions, and 51 individual lenders. It will also feature filmed interviews with escapees who now live in the U.S. One interviewee is from a group of Yeshiva students who escaped through this eastern route and spent the war years in Shanghai. The Mir Yeshiva was the only eastern European Yeshiva to survive the war intact.
The exhibition also displays refugee photographs taken by a group of highly regarded amateur Japanese photographers whose work formed the basis of a 1941 Osaka exhibit called “Wandering Jew.” Today these pictures are considered important contributions to modern photography in Japan.
The opening of Flight And Rescue marks two decades of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s visionary founding leadership. It opens to the public on May 4, a day when the national Days of Remembrance ceremony will be held in the Capitol Rotunda, followed by an evening at the Museum honoring the work of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust and its successor, the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.