Upcoming Special Exhibitions


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 it Life? or Theatre?: A Play With Music, an astounding body of over 1,300 powerfully drawn and expressively colored gouache paintings conceived as an autobiographical operetta on paper. One page after another, Salomon used images, musical cues, dialogue and commentary to tell a compelling coming-of-age story set amidst increasing Nazi oppression. Shortly after completing Life? or Theatre?, the pregnant 26-year-old was transported and killed in Auschwitz, but her singular creation and only major work survived. This exhibition of nearly three hundred paintings from Life? or Theatre? offers a rare, first-hand opportunity to witness an amazing masterpiece that stands as a testament to Salomon’s life and artistic vision.

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

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.

FILM & DISCUSSION: “Life? or Theatre”

Sunday, June 29 | 1:30 – 3:30 pm
Learn more>



September 17, 2014 – January 24, 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 Jewish 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


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

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 Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition publication do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

crane maling logo


RACE: Are We So Different?

October 12, 2014 – January 25, 2015

Main Special Exhibition Gallery

RACE logo 2It’s a simple truth.

People are different. Throughout history, these differences have been a source of community strength and personal identity. They have also been the basis for discrimination and oppression.

The idea of “race” has been used historically to describe these differences and justify mistreatment of people and even genocide. Today, contemporary scientific understanding of human variation is beginning to challenge “racial” differences, and even question the very concept of race.

RACE: Are We So Different?, developed by the American Anthropological Association in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota, is the first national exhibition to tell the stories of race from the biological, cultural, and historical points of view. Combining these perspectives offers an unprecedented look at race and racism in the United States.

RACE is funded by Ford Foundation and National Science Foundation. The local exhibition at the Illinois Holocaust Museum is made possible by Presenting Sponsor Allstate Insurance Company and Co-Sponsor Walgreens. Additional support is being provided by Bank of America, BMO Harris Bank and the Evanston Community Foundation. The Golder Family Foundation is lead sponsor for all Illinois Holocaust Museum special exhibitions.

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