Remembering the Holocaust

March 1, 2006 by  
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Remembering unspeakable horrors

Since 1996, the Holocaust Museum Houston has been a source of information and education about the “dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.” The museum is dedicated to remembering more than 6 million Jews and other innocent victims exterminated by a regime of hatred and honoring the legacy of Holocaust survivors. Numerous school children and adults have sent the museum passionate notes, poems and art, noting the changes in their lives caused by visiting this awe-inspiring museum. This is a place that you can read about many times over, but you need to experience first-hand to really grasp its depth.

Tales of survival
The Holocaust museum’s permanent exhibit, “Bearing Witness: A Community Remembers,” shares the stories of Houston-area Holocaust survivors, from their lives before the Holocaust to the start of Nazism and Adolf Hitler’s regime to the disturbance of everyday life, segregation and imprisonment. The various artifacts, films, photographs and texts reveal the roles of collaborators, bystanders, rescuers and liberators in the Holocaust. Also included in the exhibit are children’s shoes collected from the Majdanek concentration camp, which serve as a grim reminder of the countless children who were killed. Visitors end their tour of the exhibit with two films: “Voices” and “Voices II,” which include the verbal testimonies of the horrors of the Holocaust from Houston survivors.

Piece of history
March 5 marks the unveiling of a new permanent exhibit at the Holocaust Museum Houston. A World War II-era German railroad cattle car, the kind used to transport Holocaust victims to concentration camps, will be on display. Such railroad cars have become a symbol of evil and oppression recognized throughout the world. Due to the absence of any records of what particular cars were used by the Nazis, no one can say with certainty whether this particular car was used during the Holocaust, but it was built in 1942 and is the type used by the Nazis to transport victims to Auschwitz and Treblinka.

It is estimated that trains transported more than 3 million Jewish people to their deaths, involving more than 30,000 rail cars. The car will be left empty to honor the lives of those who died there, and visitors will be allowed to enter the rail car and visualize what it would have been like to have 200 people inside with no food, water or necessities.

The faces of the Holocaust
The central gallery of the museum currently features photographs by Mark Seliger, praised portrait photographer and native Texan. In “When They Came to Take My Father,” his portraits depict survivors, including brothers Max, Sol and Sigmund Jucker and artist Alice Lok Cahana. As an artist, Seliger focuses on combining the experience of Holocaust survivors with portraits that capture their personality. The exhibit will be open to the public through April 2.

Life after suffering
From March 3 through July 2, visitors to the Holocaust Museum Houston can see the lives of survivors who relocated to Houston shortly after the Holocaust. Their successes are illustrated with artifacts and photographs the survivors and their families generously loaned to the museum. The exhibit illustrates how many Holocaust survivors have not allowed the Nazis to ruin their entire lives.

A place to learn
The Holocaust Museum Houston is involved in extensive education in an effort to ensure there is not another Holocaust. The museum’s Education Center consists of two classroom areas and a research library, the Boniuk Library and Resource Center. The library houses more than 4,000 books about the Holocaust, World War II, religion and anti-Semitism. Patrons may also view or check out one of the more than 300 videos on related topics. The library also contains a catalog of archives, including historic and original photography, documents, letters, diaries and artifacts from the 1930s and 1940s.

Places for reflection
A very special space here is the Lack Family Memorial Room, in which guests can honor the memory of Holocaust victims. The space is quiet and allows for contemplation, reflection and meditation. The Wall of Remembrance, the Wall of Tears and the Wall of Hope come together here to form a three-part work of art that compliments the space.

The Eric Alexander Garden of Hope is just outside the memorial room. This quiet garden is dedicated to the “eternal spirit of children” and the memory of the 1.5 million children lost in the Holocaust.

Education for the future
The Holocaust Museum Houston understands that in order to ensure there is never a Holocaust again, we must teach our children about the dangers of racism, stereotyping and prejudice. The late Chaim Ginott passionately wrote,

“I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness: Gas chambers built by learned engineers, children poisoned by educated physicians, infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot and buried by high school and college graduates. So, I am suspicious of education. “My request is: Help your students become human. Your efforts should never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmans. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more humane.”

The Holocaust Museum Houston provides teachers with curriculum trunks, training, guidelines and packets to enable them to reach their students with the message of the Holocaust. The information enables students to understand the dangers of apathy and to relate the Holocaust to current world issues. The museum also offers contests in which students can win cash prizes and showcase their talents.

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