Bergson Group to be honored in exhibit

US Holocaust Museum decision follows 'Jerusalem Post' report.

peter bergson 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
peter bergson 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum intends to change a section of its permanent exhibition to include information about the maverick 1940s rescue organization known as the Bergson Group, museum officials said Tuesday. The announcement comes just days after the publication of a petition by more than 100 Holocaust scholars and mainstream Jewish leaders urging the museum to acknowledge the Bergson Group in its main exhibit. "As you know from our various communications, in the course of our research and deliberations, we decided to revise the entire War Refugee Board segment in the permanent exhibition in order to provide some visual materials and artifacts relating to the Bergson Group to better highlight its activities," museum curator Steven Luckert wrote in a letter to the director of the Washington DC-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which initiated the petition. A copy of the July 30 letter was sent to The Jerusalem Post. Luckert said the new War Refugee Board exhibition section would be completed by the spring. The Wyman Institute, which has been pressing the museum on the issue for nearly five years, on Tuesday welcomed the decision. "The Wyman Institute applauds the US Holocaust Museum's pledge to correct the omission of the Bergson Group from its permanent exhibit," institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff said. "We trust that the corrected exhibit will clearly acknowledge the Bergson Group's vital role in the process leading to creation of the War Refugee Board, including its march by 400 rabbis in Washington and its crucial work with members of Congress to promote rescue." Nobel Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel also recently urged the museum to add the Bergson Group to its permanent exhibition. The Bergson Group, known as the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, raised public awareness about the Holocaust and campaigned for US rescue action to save European Jewry. The group was led by Hillel Kook, a nephew of Israel's first chief rabbi, who worked under the pseudonym of Peter Bergson. The organization was viewed by mainstream American Jewish leaders during World War II as being too forthright in its criticism of the Roosevelt administration's failure to rescue Jewish refugees. In recent years, most Jewish leaders have come to recognize the group's crucial contribution to the infamously belated rescue effort. The Bergson Group is credited with helping to persuade president Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 to establish the War Refugee Board, which ultimately saved 200,000 Jewish lives, including future US Congressman Tom Lantos, the current chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee. Despite opposition from mainstream American Jewish leaders, the organization campaigned to save European Jewry through theatrical pageants, lobbying on Capitol Hill, placing more than 200 newspaper advertisements and organizing a march in Washington by 400 rabbis, which, the Wyman Institute said, was the only rally urging rescue efforts in the nation's capitol during the Holocaust. About 150 relatives of the rabbis who took part in the march have also signed the petition, the institute said.