To Bear Witness


724 NW Davis Street, Portland, OR 97209

The Immigrant Story and the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education invite you to visit “To Bear Witness – Extraordinary Lives,” our newest multimedia exhibition, opening December 9, 2021, at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education. This exhibition celebrates the “Extraordinary Lives” of men and women who have endured unthinkable cruelty elsewhere in the world, only to resume productive lives in their new homes in Oregon.

“To Bear Witness” takes its name from the words of the late Nobel Prize-winning writer, activist and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who emphatically proclaimed, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” And so we present this collection of profiles of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, genocides in Europe, Africa and Asia and unimaginable atrocities of war. They are united by the troubling truth that human despotry sometimes knows no bounds. But each is also a portrait of courage and human resilience. We present these stories in hopes that they will inspire, inform and possibly instruct.

“To Bear Witness” includes 14 profiles from Myanmar, Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Syria, Sudan, Tibet, Nazi-occupied Hungary, Germany, and Austria. 

Sankar Raman
Holocaust survivors Eva and Les Aigner in their home in Tualatin, Oregon. Photo: Sankar Raman

The Immigrant Story is proud to join with the lauded Portland photographer Jim Lommasson, building upon his project, “Stories of Survival,” originally produced in collaboration with the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.  His work focuses on objects survivors were able to carry with them on their perilous journeys. From his photographs of the objects, the participants respond with handwritten testimonies — stories, memories, poems, drawings. Their stories speak to the luminous inner life of these ordinary things and testify to the unspeakable anguish of lives forever left behind. Ordinary objects thus become sacred objects.

Dijana Ihas’ hand-written story describes the significance of the bow and viola photographed by Jim Lommasson. Ihas, a professor at Pacific University in Forest Grove, learned to play violin and viola in communist Yugoslavia. During the three-year siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War, Ihas and three other musicians performed as the Sarajevo String Quartet. Jim Lommasson / To Bear Witness

Also on display are five short docu-series films by well-known video producers from the Pacific Northwest, in collaboration with NW Documentary. These visceral personal stories emphasize the individual humanity of genocide survivors, forcing viewers to look beyond cold facts and statistics and confront the immense emotional, spiritual and physical violence that genocide inflicts. 

They have so much to tell us. And so, we must Bear Witness.