Holocaust Museum Honors Survivors

December 7, 2010  

By Andy Garcia
atgarcia@smu.edu

Less than half a mile away from the site of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination stands a testament to another tragedy. A tragedy so devastating that it consumed the lives of millions.

The Holocaust, its horrors and its heroes are brought back to life by the artifacts and images housed in the Dallas Holocaust Museum and Center for Education and Tolerance.

Located in Downtown Dallas’s West End, the museum provides the city a glimpse into one of history’s darkest moments.

“I think people come here because it is such a part of history,” said Marsha Friedman, an employee at the museum. “They can feel part of the history because they are listening to people who were actually involved.”

Holocaust Museum Offers Survivor’s Stories to Visitors

In order to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, the museum brings in local survivors of tragedy.

According to the museum, nearly 180 Holocaust survivors live in the Dallas Fort-Worth area.

With over 30,000 student visitors in 2009, the museum makes an effort to have at least one Holocaust survivor present on every school day.

“We want the students to come away having been changed by what they witnessed,” said Chris Kelly, the museum’s public relations consultant. “They can talk to someone or hear someone’s story that went through something they can not imagine.”

Making The Holocaust Come Alive

The museum was started in the mid 80’s when some two-dozen local Holocaust survivors, under the leadership of Michael Jacobs, pooled together their own artifacts to create the exhibits.

“Their idea was to provide a venue for students to actually see remnants of the Holocaust,” said Alice Murray, president and CEO of the museum.

Jacobs eventually went to Belgium to purchase for the museum a boxcar that might have been used to transport people between concentration and death camps during the Holocaust.

The boxcar acts as a symbol of the poor conditions endured by victims of the Holocaust.  It also serves as a reminder of the courageous actions of three Belgium men who freed hundreds of people from a similar boxcar while en route to Auschwitz.

As of now, the boxcar is pushed up against a wall of the museum with all of its wheels in storage. Murray believes that in a few years the boxcar will be better displayed in a new museum.

Future Plans for the Holocaust Museum

The new museum is to be built on Houston Street adjacent to the Sixth Floor Museum.

Along with exhibits already on display, the new museum will provide space for artifacts that are currently in storage. Among the items in storage are a hand-illustrated copy of the Old Testament and a lantern with a swastika on it that was used along the railroad tracks that transported Holocaust victims.

Apart from the exhibits, the new museum will feature a research library. According to Kelly, the library will include pictures and documents that will allow for studies that have never been done before.

The new museum will also provide space for classrooms dedicated to teaching people to how to combat intolerance.

Bystanders Are Guilty

Michael Norris, a museum visitor, grew up hearing stories of the Holocaust from his father, a U.S. army veteran who participated in the liberation of Buchenwald. Norris said that there was a myth that German citizens did not know about what was going on at the camps. According to his father, it was possible to smell the scent of burning flesh ten miles away from the camps.

According to Murry, bystanders like the German people make it possible for atrocities like the Holocaust to happen.

To help ensure that nothing like the Holocaust will ever happen again, the museum has started what it calls the Upstander Movement. Launched in April 2009, the program focuses on spreading a message of tolerance while also convincing people to not be bystanders of injustice.

Murry believes that with ease at which ideas of hatred can spread due to technology it is more important now than ever to teach people to be Upstanders.

“Our mission of teaching tolerance and the right response to hatred which is to respond is becoming more and more pressing,” said Murry.

People can help commit to ending intolerance by buying t-shirts or armbands with the Upstander logo from the museum.

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