The University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu James & Abigail Campbell Library is one of 50 U.S. libraries selected to host “Americans and the Holocaust,” a traveling exhibition from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum that examines the motives, pressures and fears that shaped Americans’ responses to Nazism, war and genocide in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s.

Holocaust exhibit panels

The exhibition challenges the commonly held assumptions that Americans knew little and did nothing about the Nazi persecution and murder of Jews as the Holocaust unfolded.

“Americans and the Holocaust” will be on display at the library, along with a series of related special events, January 28–March 9, 2022. It is the only showing of the exhibit in Hawaiʻi. A partnership with the Hawaiʻi State Public Library system will also assist in promoting the exhibit to public schools across the state.

Chancellor Maenette Benham said, “We are honored to host this exhibit and to cohost panel presentations and community discussions on critical topics. For example, through discussions that focus on historical cases of genocide and countries today that are at risk for mass atrocities, we can strategize both preventative measures as well as how to empower survivors. Learning to fight against hatred, intolerance and discrimination can inspire our students to be courageous and resilient!”

Americans and the Holocaust exhibit panel

Based on extensive new research of that period, “Americans and the Holocaust” addresses important themes in American history, exploring the many factors—including the Great Depression, isolationism, xenophobia, racism and antisemitism—that influenced decisions made by the U.S. government, the news media, organizations and individuals as they responded to Nazism.

Drawing on a remarkable collection of primary sources from the 1930s and ‘40s, the exhibition focuses on the stories of individuals and groups of Americans who took action in response to Nazism. It will challenge visitors to consider the responsibilities and obstacles faced by individuals—from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to ordinary Americans—who made difficult choices, sought to effect change and, in a few cases, took significant risks to help victims of Nazism even as rescue never became a government priority.

How to see it

Holocaust exhibit panels

“Americans and the Holocaust” can be experienced several ways:

  • In-person: Visitors are welcome during normal library operating hours. Visitors may also book a Saturday appointment (10 a.m.–2 p.m.). ​​All visitors to the library must provide proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test from a UH-recognized testing facility. Please review all visiting procedures.
  • Web version: This online exhibit is a companion to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s “Americans and the Holocaust” exhibition.
  • YouTube tour: This 39-minute tour of “Americans and the Holocaust” is led by Daniel Greene, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum historian and exhibition curator. Greene walks through the exhibition in the Washington, D.C. museum and provides an overview of the history, themes and artifacts presented throughout.

For more information about “Americans and the Holocaust” and related special events at the James & Abigail Campbell Library, go to westoahu.hawaii.edu/library. To learn more about the exhibition, visit ushmm.org/americans-ala.

Made possible by sponsors

Americans and the Holocaust exhibit poster

In addition to the traveling exhibition on loan, The James & Abigail Campbell Library received a cash grant to support public programs. The grant also covered one library staff member’s attendance at an orientation workshop at the museum.

“Americans and the Holocaust: A Traveling Exhibition for Libraries” is made possible by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Library Association. “Americans and the Holocaust” was made possible by the generous support of lead sponsor Jeannie & Jonathan Lavine. Additional major funding was provided by the Bildners—Joan & Allen z”l, Elisa Spungen & Rob, Nancy & Jim; and Jane and Daniel Och. The museum’s exhibitions are also supported by the Lester Robbins and Sheila Johnson Robbins Traveling and Special Exhibitions Fund, established in 1990.

By Leila Wai Shimokawa