Exhibit reveals horrors and context of Vichy France

One of the darkest periods in French history provides the context for a powerful exhibit at Grove City College.

"The Fruits of Hate: A French City during the Holocaust,” an exhibit researched and curated by Dr. David Rosenberg, and "Considering Vichy France: Capitulations, Collaborations, and Confrontations," which was created by Grove City College students, are on display through April 30 in the Great Room of Breen Student Union on campus.

The exhibit is hosted and developed by the departments of Modern Languages and History and the College’s Archives and Gallery. It is free and open to the public.

“It's a powerful exhibit that we are honored to bring to campus and include so many classes and students in preparing it for display,” said Hilary Walczak ’09, director of College Archives and Galleries.

From 1940 to 1944, France was occupied by Germany and ruled by the authoritarian Vichy regime, which did the Nazi’s bidding, including supporting Hitler’s racist and inhumane persecution and extermination of Jews.

Rosenberg, a retired archivist and specialist in the history of the Reformation in the city of Amiens, France, set out to more than a decade ago to discover what happened to the Jews of that city during the Nazi occupation.

His research uncovered hundreds of records from the war years that answered his questions. He and his daughter, artist Lydia Rosenberg, curated those records to create the “Fruits of Hate” exhibit, which has been displayed globally, and a website Jews of the Somme.

The exhibit and website features the work of Grove City College Modern Languages students, who, under the guidance of Associate Professor of French Dr. Kelsey B. Madsen, translated  French documents about the roundup of Jews in 1944 in Amiens and letters from Jewish World War I veterans in 1942 seeking exemptions from being forced to wear the yellow star of David under the occupation.

That connection brought the exhibit to the College and inspired a companion display created by students in Assistant Professor of History Dr. Elizabeth A. Baker’s freshman history seminar class.

Because “Fruits of Hate” was coming to campus, Baker said she selected Vichy France as the theme students would explore as they learned about writing, researching, and discussing historical topics in an academic setting.

Students researched the history of the era individually and with others, selected photographs that typified and exemplified the reality of occupied France, and prepared title cards to accompany them. The result is “Considering Vichy France: Capitulations, Collaborations, and Confrontations,” an exhibit that narrates key events and debates in Vichy France’s history to contextualize the tragic events of France’s Holocaust during World War II. “It is, in essence, the history of Vichy France in seven photographs,” Baker said.

“This exhibit is meant to provide visitors with a better understanding of the French occupation during World War II. Even more importantly, this was a project that trained students in presenting history to a wider audience,” Baker said.

“Instead of presenting something to the class or writing a paper that I alone read, this exhibit project allowed them to show off their hard work to their peers and campus visitors while training them to take a large topic and explain it in a concise, professional, and educational manner,” she said.

The display in Breen’s Great Room was designed and built by Dan Wolfe and students from the Theatre Program and installed by students from Walczak’s Galleries Studies class.

Exhibit reveals horrors and context of Vichy France

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