From 1933 to 1941, European Jews sought haven from the Nazis, reaching out to relatives, friends, even strangers. The exhibition Against the Odds: American Jews & The Rescue of Europe's Refugees 1933-1941 tells the little-known story of the Americans who answered the call. Despite strict immigration laws, these generous few, many immigrants themselves, overcame tremendous obstacles to help the Jewish refugees to safety.
The barriers they encountered, often bureaucratic, are represented by “paper walls” of floating curls of card-stock. These carry the ghosted typography of archival documents. The paper walls divide the exhibition into chapters, from the earliest days of warning to the crush of Nazi Germany overrunning Europe. The paper walls move constantly, evoking the shifting context of the times.
The story is presented through archival documents, interactives, an ambient musical score, AV installations, and oral histories. Interactive experiences are delivered through iPads with handmade wooden covers, featuring the voices of the real characters. Media projections occur in surprising ways. Remixed archival footage of boat passengers is projected onto a screen made of many pieces of overlapping paper. What seems to be a window shows scenes of life that look happy at first glance, but become red with menace over time.
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“Walls speak loudly in this exhibition, drawing the viewer into an array of visual metaphors that recount the Shoah. The heart of the exhibition is the correspondence between Jewish refugees from Europe and their American relatives. Oral histories, media projections, and interactive devices support the design, bringing to life a tragic event that otherwise could be easily relegated to history."
Jonathan Alger (partner in charge, creative director); Daniel Fouad, Monika Thorson (exhibit design); Kelsey Cohen (graphic design, content coordination); Zak Greene (interactives, media); Max Millermaier (media, sound, and hardware design); Eliza Fitzhugh Samuel Sheniova), Jessica Griscti (graphic design)
Anita Jorgenson Lighting (lighting)
Precision Plastics (fabrication), Bay Imagery (printing)