'Righteous Among Nations' Holocaust exhibit on display through March 22 at K-State Olathe

Monday, March 4, 2013

by Kristi Northcutt

The exhibit "Righteous Among the Nations: Help of Polish people for the Jewish population in southern Poland in the years 1939-1945" opens today at Kansas State University Olathe, 22201 W. Innovation Drive. The exhibit, which runs through March 22, is free and open to the public.

The title Righteous Among the Nations is an honorary decoration conferred by the State of Israel to honor non-Jews who saved Jewish men, women and children from extermination by the Nazis. The title is given to those who, in a world of absolute moral collapse, rose above simple courage and became heroes and defenders of humanity.

"This exhibit is a powerful tribute to extraordinary actions in terrifying times," said Susan Yelich Biniecki, event organizer and an assistant professor of educational leadership at Kansas State University's College of Education. "We would like to invite the entire community to participate and to learn and appreciate the Kansas connection through one of the heroes, Irena Sendler."

Sendler smuggled children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, and her story may have been lost to the ages if not for a class project by teacher Norman Conard and three of his students in Uniontown, a small community in southeast Kansas. The students became so interested in Sendler's story that they wrote the play "Life in a Jar," named for the jar where Sendler stored the names of the 2,500 children she helped cheat probable death.

"We are thrilled to be part of telling this story of everyday heroes, which also happens to include an example of how everyday students can make a difference," said Jackie Spears, interim associate academic dean at K-State Olathe. "We hope to engage students, teachers and community members in paying tribute to these heroes."

Waldemar Biniecki, founding member and president of the Kansas Division of the Polish American Congress, will present the exhibit's background and a Polish perspective at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, in Forum Hall at K-State Olathe. Biniecki was born in Bydgoszcz, Poland, and has a special combination of experiences and skills as a cross-cultural trainer, translator, Polish/English language instructor, high school guidance counselor, UNESCO coordinator of youth exchanges in Poland and a community leader. Currently, he works at the Center for Intercultural and Multilingual Advocacy at Kansas State University's College of Education.

The university's College of Education, K-State Libraries and the School of Leadership Studies are co-sponsoring the exhibit at K-State Olathe, which is made possible by the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago.

For more information about the "Righteous Among the Nations" exhibit at K-State Olathe, or to schedule a school group, click here or call 913-541-1220.