Nearly sixty years after Manfred presented him with his gift, Gad Beck entrusted the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with this fragile and intimate artifact. During the development phase of this exhibition, it became evident how the meaning of this artifact was changed by Manfred’s deportation and death in Auschwitz and by the passing years. The booklet, once only meaningful for Gad and Manfred, became a time capsule, a reminder of a friendship, of a group, and of the events that destroyed them all.
Building the exhibition has been a search to understand and to document the different layers of this complex story. Along the way, archival sources and photographs led to surprising insights. Critical memories and testimonies of survivors, however, have been the main, and sometimes the sole, source of information in reconstructing the meanings of this artifact. Sixty years later, of course, memory has been colored and altered by time. Some memories have been lost, some seem fresh and immediate, and others emerged through the work on this exhibition. The booklet that Manfred once made as a private gift to Gad, now allows us glimpses into the daily life of Jewish youth in Berlin before and during the deportations. It reminds us of how difficult it is to really understand what happened and how much we can never know.