As we begin 2024, let’s take a moment to reflect on the Museum’s programming highlights of 2023. This year we welcomed thousands, enjoying a range of events in-person and online. Your support has truly made these moments unforgettable, and we look forward to continuing this meaningful journey together this coming year.
In a year full of programs, these had the largest in-person audiences:
J Robert Oppenheimer, known as the “father of the atomic bomb,” worked with a team of physicists as part of the Manhattan Project, which created the world’s first-ever nuclear weapon in 1945. Essential to the story of World War II and the Holocaust, Oppenheimer is the subject of Kai Bird’s Pulitzer Prize–winning book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, on which Christopher Nolan based his forthcoming film “Oppenheimer.” Kai Bird is joined in conversation by Joseph Kanon, Edgar Award–winning author of Los Alamos, to discuss the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, context of the Manhattan Project and the Cold War, and how Oppenheimer’s legacy remains relevant today. Get all the stories and details ahead of the film’s release.
The American Way
Family lore had it that author Bonnie Siegler’s grandfather Jules crossed paths with Marilyn Monroe in Midtown Manhattan late one night in 1954, her white dress flying up around her as she filmed a scene for The Seven Year Itch. Siegler wasn’t sure she quite believed her grandfather’s story…until, cleaning out his apartment, she found the film reel. That discovery would prompt her to investigate her grandfather’s seemingly-tall tales — and lead her in pursuit of a remarkable, poignant piece of forgotten history, bridging old Hollywood, the birth of the comic book, and the Holocaust. The American Way is a kaleidoscopic tale of hope and reinvention, of daring escapes and fake identities, of big dreams and the magic of movies, and what it means to be a real-life Superman.
Leo Frank was a pencil factory superintendent in Georgia in April 1913 when his coworker, thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan, was murdered. Her body was found in the factory’s basement, and Frank was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death. Many since have examined the case and posited that Frank was denied a fair trial and unjustly convicted amid a wave of antisemitic fervor – it was this fervor that spurred a mob of people to storm the prison and lynch Frank on August 17, 1915. Frank is the only Jew known to be murdered in this way in American history. Frank’s case has since become the subject of multiple investigations and alleged-coverups, not to mention books, movies, and the current Broadway revival of the musical Parade.
The Last Secret of the Secret Annex
Anne Frank and her family were taken into hiding by twenty-three-year-old Bep Voskuijl, at great risk to herself. While Bep plunged into Amsterdam’s black market to source food and medicine for the family, her friendship with Anne bloomed through deep conversations and shared youth. At the same time, Bep’s sister Nelly was collaborating with the Nazis and may have been the one to betray those hiding in the Annex.
In the new book The Last Secret of the Secret Annex, Bep’s son Joop van Wijk-Voskuijl and Jeroen De Bruyn intertwine Bep and Nelly’s story with Anne’s iconic narrative. They reveal deeply held family secrets and provide a powerful understanding of how historical trauma is inherited from one generation to the next. Moderated by Pamela Nadell, Patrick Clendenen Chair in Women’s and Gender History at American University.
Singing in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish, internationally renowned Dudu Fisher performed Israeli songs, Yiddish songs, and musical numbers, including Adon Olam, My Yiddishe Momme, Jerusalem of Gold (Yerushalayim Shel Zahav), and more. Fisher is an artist of film, television, stage, and song, whose career spans over five decades in venues worldwide.
The child of Holocaust survivors, Dudu Fisher is widely known for his portrayal of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables on Broadway. Fisher has performed with many of Israel’s leading artists. “Baltic Truth,” Fisher’s Holocaust documentary, was released on April 21, 2023. He currently stars in the Netflix series “Rough Diamonds.” Fisher has released over 25 albums, with songs in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. In 2020, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Authority for Yiddish Culture.
In the Third Reich, many German nurses served the Nazi regime, choosing to abandon professional ethics. They used their skills to murder people with physical and mental disabilities and illnesses, participating in cruel medical experimentation and genocide. Caring Corrupted: The Killing Nurses of the Third Reich chronicles the stories of these nurses and questions how and why they became involved in Nazi crimes.
This program featured a screening of Caring Corrupted followed by a discussion with Dr. Patricia Starck, Dean Emerita of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Cizik School of Nursing, and Dr. Cathy Rozmus, PARTNERS Professor and Vice Dean of Academic Affairs at the Cizik School of Nursing at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
Those Who Forget
Géraldine Schwarz’s riveting account of her German and French grandparents’ lives during World War II is an urgent warning against forgetting the lessons of history in the dangerous rise of far-right nationalism in Europe, the UK, and the U.S. In her book, Those Who Forget: My Family’s Story in Nazi Europe, Schwarz weaves together the threads of three generations of her family story with Europe’s process of post-war reckoning with fascism. She explores how millions were ensnared by ideology; overcome by a fog of denial after the war; and, in Germany, eventually managed to transform collective guilt into democratic responsibility.
Celebrate National Pickle Month with fermentation expert and revivalist, Sandor Katz, and the Workers Circle CEO, Ann Toback. Sandor and Ann will take us through all things pickles, a lifelong love of theirs, including what makes sour pickles special and how sauerkraut, kimchi, and all fermented vegetables are pickles. Katz will delve into a recipe for Pao-cai, Chinese pickles, from his newest book, Fermentation Journeys, and discuss Jewishness and transformation as it relates to his work.
The New Yorker director and journalist Daniel Lombroso made “Nina&Irena“—a film about his grandmother, Nina Gottlieb, a Holocaust survivor who comes to terms with the loss of her sister who was never found after remaining silent about her experiences for 80 years. According to Lombroso, this film is a response and a coda to his previous documentary, “White Noise,” for which he spent four-years reporting on the American alt-right.
Lombroso will be joined in conversation by Gottlieb and Andrew Marantz, a staff writer at The New Yorker, after the screening of “Nina&Irena“ to discuss the film, their experiences, and the connection to Lombroso’s work on “White Noise.”
The Museum welcomed the Zisl Slepovitch Ensemble and Sasha Lurje to present a selection of songs that Dr. D. Zisl Slepovitch has discovered, curated, transcribed, and arranged working as a Musician-in-Residence at the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University, a unique collection of 4,400 interviews conducted in the 1980s–2000s. The songs in the program provide a series of insights into the Holocaust survivors’ experiences both during World War II and in the pre- and inter-war years as they were growing up in Eastern, Southern, and Central Europe. The compositions form a timeline that recreates a dynamic, multidimensional image of people’s lives and the multiple identities they carried — as Jews by faith and roots, and as citizens of different European countries. At the core of the program are the unique songs and poetry (some never publicly performed before) that ghetto and camp prisoners composed and performed during the Holocaust.
Viewers spent 4,008,000 minutes watching our videos in 2023. Here are the programs that collected the most views:
The History of Antisemitism – Kill the Hollywood Jews: The Prewar Origins of Film Noir
When Nazi plans were learned and promptly ignored by local and federal authorities in Los Angeles, a number of Jews working in Hollywood secretly funded a spy ring that operated from August 1933 until the end of WWII. These spies uncovered a series of plots aimed at attracting international attention to the Nazi cause and sparking a wave of deadly pogroms throughout the U.S. The most nefarious plot involved blowing up the homes of twenty-four of Hollywood’s most famous figures, twenty-two of whom were Jewish.
Many aspects of film noir, the genre borne out of 1930s and ’40s Lost Angeles, reflect these experiences, along with witnessing corrupt officials and crime unpunished, and the experiences of a post-war sense of dread. Learn these incredible stories with historian Steven J. Ross.
Annual Gathering of Remembrance 2023
Every year, at the Annual Gathering of Remembrance, the Museum brings thousands together to say with one collective voice: we will never forget. Rooted in a city with one of the world’s largest communities of Holocaust survivors, this Yom HaShoah tribute has power that echoes across generations.
Tablet Presents: Bernard-Henri Levy and Natan Sharansky – “Freedom and Tyranny”
French philosopher, essayist, playwright, and filmmaker Bernard-Henri Lévy joined heroic former Soviet prisoner of conscience Natan Sharansky to address and debate the most urgent questions of our moment, starting with Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and ongoing U.S. engagement with Iran’s tottering dictatorship as it pursues a nuclear bomb. Lévy and Sharansky offered their perspectives, then were joined by moderator David Samuels, the Literary Editor at Tablet.
The 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: Resistance and Survival in the Holocaust
The 80th anniversary of the beginning of the momentous Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was on April 19th this year. In this talk, Dr. Zachary Mazur will reflect on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as a powerful example of Jewish resistance and action in the face of Nazi oppression during the Holocaust. Mazur’s presentation draws upon never-before-seen sources and images that were discovered in the process of preparing the POLIN Museum’s temporary exhibition Around Us a Sea of Fire, which addresses the civilian experience in bunkers and hideouts during the Uprising.
“The Sassoons” Book Talk with Joseph Sassoon and Rebecca Kobrin
The Sassoons, known as “the Rothschilds of the East,” were one of the richest families in the world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Baghdadi Jewish family built a vast financial and trade empire that spanned continents, became members of British Parliament, and owned some of Britain’s leading newspapers. In his new book The Sassoons: The Great Global Merchants and the Making of an Empire, Joseph Sassoon details the family’s history. At this event, Sassoon was in conversation about his book with Rebecca Kobrin, Russell and Bettina Knapp Associate Professor of American Jewish History at Columbia University.