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Charlotte Salomon 'Life? or Theater?' art showcased at Illinois Holocaust Museum

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Charlotte Salomon's 'Life? or Theater?: A Play With Music' art display at Illinois Holocaust Museum

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The Illinois Holocaust Museum may not be one of the happiest places to visit in Skokie, but it is one of the most memorable and educational venues in the Chicagoland area. And there are plenty of food-for-thought events happening during the summer months inside of the museum located at 9603 Woods Dr.

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On Sun., July 13, there will be a free screening* and discussion for the film "A Song for You" by Sharon Karp, co-directed by Silvia Malagrino. The film is about a family and their infant daughter that managed to escape the Nazis by crossing the Pyrenees mountain range with assistance from the French Resistance.

Also, from Juneteenth, the start of another historical day, until Sun., Sept. 21, Charlotte Salomon's "Life? or Theater?" art display can be viewed on the ground floor of the museum.

Charlotte Salomon, a 23-year-old pregnant Jewish artist from Berlin, fled to southern France and closed herself into a hotel room in hiding. While there, she spent 18 months painting her history, which included 1,300 gouache paintings entitled "Life? or Theater? A Play With Music." Unfortunately after completing her painting project, she was captured and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp to be killed.

Approximately 300 of her paintings are on display for viewers to see in the museum. The artwork gives details about family suicides, jealousy and love in relationships, and political and social issues within her community.

After guests browse her artwork, take a walk through the main and second floor to see the Karkomi Permanent Exhibition (over 500 artifacts, documents and photographs narrating the Holocaust), video testaments from the entrance to the end, passports and identity cards on display, and the November Pogroms (a display popularly known as the Kristallnacht -- the Night of Broken Glass) in the rear area. This display actually looks like it had recently been destroyed with a (safe) display of broken glass on the floor and "destruction" surrounding pieces of memorabilia.

For a haunting look inside of a German rail car, take the ramp to the center of the building. Visitors have the option to step inside but are warned of the fragility of the train car. From the uncomfortable lack of light and broken floorboards, there's no way to not remember the walk inside.

Other displays include photography of Illinois survivors marching in the late 1970s after neo-Nazis threatened to attack Jewish people living in the Skokie area.

Photography is not permitted in most of the museum, but there are a few exceptions -- the Room of Remembrance (a wall lined with the names of six million people murdered during the Holocaust), the Pritzker Hall of Reflection (18 windows with a candle in each of them as a symbol of life), the Harvey L. Miller Family Youth Exhibition and the Ferro Fountain of the Righteous (outdoor near the south side area of the building).

As with many museums, the Illinois Holocaust Museum is too rich with information for one visit. Just watching one film and reading captions on one wall will make time go by, and it's worth a return trip to do it all over again.

Click here for hours of operation, here for pricing details and here for directions. Click here to sign up for the e-newsletter for more events.

* Free admission reservations are required to attend the movie event. Send an email to reservations@ilhmec.org for confirmation.

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