UNITED NATIONS (Jan. 15)
Leib Gongola looked at each photograph very carefully and for a long time. Auschwitz and its horrors were in front of him in huge black-and-white photographs, hanging in the visitors’ lobby of the United Nations.
“I was there for three years. I remember all,” said Gongola, now 61 and living in Brooklyn. And as if to remove any doubt that indeed he was “there,” he rolled up his sleeve and showed his tattooed arm: 78389.
Gongola is one of thousands of individuals who have already visited the “Auschwitz — A Crime Against Mankind” exhibition which opened here last month and will close January 31. The exhibition was brought to the UN by the Polish government on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945. The exhibition was organized by the Auschwitz State Museum and the International Auschwitz Committee and sponsored by the UN Center for Human Rights.
The photographs, many of them taken by SS Nazi guards at Auschwitz, some of them by inmates and others by the liberators of the concentration camp, depict the brutality and the systematic murder of millions of Jews and others by the Nazis. In addition, the exhibition includes artifacts of the murdered victims: shoes, suitcases, eyeglasses as well as religious items such as prayer books and prayer shawls.
The exhibition, conceived by the Auschwitz State Museum, opened at the UN on December 10 after months of cooperation between the museum authorities and American Jewish leaders. As a result of the discussions, many of the captions of the photographs clearly state that the majority of those who were murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz were Jews.
When the exhibition opened, Benjamin Meed, president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors said, “I am pleased the exhibition is here. I have to commend it.” Meed visited Poland in August to review the exhibition before it arrived here. He said that the Polish government was very cooperative and accepted suggestions to underscore the fact that Jews were the main victims of the Nazis.
According to a UN spokesman, about 1,500 visitors come to the UN everyday. All of them pass through the visitors’ lobby and it is assumed, therefore, that a great many of them view the exhibition.