Current Special Exhibitions



September 17, 2014 – January 25, 2015

Second Floor Balcony Gallery

This exhibition illustrates Jan Karski’s mission of courage during World War II, and his subsequent life and testimony. As an emissary for the Polish Underground state, Jan Karski carried classified information from the Resistance on the ground in occupied Poland to the Polish government-in-exile, first in France and later in England. One of his critical missions was to inform the Allies of the ongoing slaughter of the Jews in occupied Poland. In 1942, in disguise, he twice entered the Warsaw Ghetto and later penetrated a Nazi transit camp to see Jews being herded to their deaths. With these eyewitness accounts, he traveled under an assumed identity to London and later to Washington where, in July 1943, he met for over one hour with President Roosevelt in the White House to inform him about the on-going genocide. Tragically, the Allies chose not to act on his report. After the war, he became a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service where he taught many future leaders. His wartime memoir Story of a Secret State is a captivating account of his courage and integrity in the midst of unspeakable horror.

Photo: ©Hoover Institution Archives


The Crain-Maling Foundation is the lead sponsor for the Illinois Holocaust Museum presentation of The World Knew: Jan Karski’s Mission for Humanity.

The exhibition was organized by the Jan Karski Educational Foundation in partnership with the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Polish History Museum. Additional funding was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition publication do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Charlotte Salomon: “Life? or Theater?”

June 19-September 21, 2014

Main Special Exhibition Gallery


In the early years of World War II, Charlotte Salomon—a 23-year-old Jewish artist from Berlin—fled to the south of France where she shut herself into a hotel room and spent two years feverishly painting the history of her life. She called this astounding body of 1,300 gouache paintings Life? or Theater?: A Play With Music. Through her operetta on paper, Salomon tells a compelling coming-of-age story set amidst increasing Nazi oppression. Shortly after completing Life? or Theater?, the pregnant 26-year-old was transported to Auschwitz and killed. Her singular creation and only major work survived and stands as a testament to her life and artistic vision.

This exhibition of nearly 300 paintings from Life? or Theater? offers a rare, first-hand opportunity to experience her amazing masterpiece.

Learn more about Life? or Theater? and view the entire work online >

View photos from the exhibition opening event on June 19 >

Charlotte Salomon: Life? or Theater? was organized by the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam. Copyright holder is the Charlotte Salomon Foundation, Amsterdam. The local presentation of the exhibition has been made possible by the generous and visionary support of The Craig and Donna Bernfield Family Foundation, Norman and Virginia Bobins, Nathan and Alyse Mason Brill, and Nicor Gas. The Golder Family Foundation is lead sponsor for all Illinois Holocaust Museum special exhibitions. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

MUSEUM BLOG | Charlotte, A Visual Diary

Posted by Joel Cahen, Director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Amsterdam
Read more >



Second Floor Hall of Reflection Gallery

walterThe Hidden Children/Child Survivors Chicago group consists of local Jewish adults who were hidden during the Holocaust in order to survive. Like other child survivors, they are the last generation to have witnessed the Holocaust.

Each panel in this exhibition represents one of the twenty-four authors of the book Out of Chaos: Hidden Children Remember the Holocaust, published by Northwestern University Press. In the book, photographs accompany each of their personal stories and anecdotes which relate to their lives in Europe during the war.

This exhibition was generously underwritten by Olga M. Weiss.




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