Sunday February 24, 2019

Artifacts in US Holocaust Memorial Museum Preserve Holocaust Stories for Future Generations

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A conservator at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's conservation and research center points out a hidden pocket on a piece of clothing worn by a prisoner at a Nazi concentration camp. VOA

April 25, 2017: The small wicker doll chair was a modest toy, but it meant the world to Louise Lawrence-Israels. A gift for her second birthday, it was the only toy she possessed during the approximately three years she spent hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam, just five blocks from the house where Anne Frank wrote in her diary.

The chair is one of thousands of artifacts housed in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s new conservation and research center, which opened Monday on the annual memorial day for the 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany during World War II.

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“It was a big thing for me to actually give the chair, because it was a significant thing,” said Lawrence-Israels, 75, one of about two dozen Holocaust survivors who attended the center’s opening. “A lot of people can look at it and see how it was for a little child in hiding.”

The David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center, located in the suburbs of the nation’s capital, is a state-of-the-art facility with 103,000 square feet (9,570 sq. meters) for documents and artifacts, with room for expansion.

The center houses thousands of items in eight climate-controlled vaults in a building designed to withstand tornadoes and hurricanes. Its collection includes everyday objects, from children’s toys and clothes to sewing machines used in concentration camps.

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Travis Roxlau, director of collections services, said center officials have spent 25 years gathering the items.

“We collect stories, and all of the objects that go along with those stories, because as the surviving generation passes on, these are going to be the objects that are left to help us tell the history of the Holocaust,” Roxlau said.

Survivors say the center’s holdings are critical to preserving the reality of the Holocaust.

“I think the most important thing is to make sure that the memory of the Holocaust isn’t forgotten,” said Alfred Munzer, 75, who donated a silver teething ring that went with him at the age of nine months when he was put into hiding with a Dutch-Indonesian family in the Netherlands in 1942. He also donated two small photographs of him that his mother kept hidden while she was confined in concentration camps.

Munzer, of Washington, D.C., said the center and its artifacts will serve “as a lesson to the world as to where hate can lead to.”

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Lawrence-Israels, of Bethesda, Maryland, noted that she and other Holocaust survivors are “not going to be here forever, and once we’re not here anymore the museum and this institution will speak for us.”

“This is the only evidence that we leave behind, and with the climate today it’s important that people see that this was real,” Lawrence-Israels said.

Scholars and researchers will have access to materials in the facility. A reading room is scheduled to open in the next year. The museum also is in the process of making documents and images available online. (VOA)

Next Story

India Praised For Giving Safety To Jew Refugees This International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Two Maharajas, Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja of Nawanagar and Rajaram III of Kolhapur, established camps for Polish child refugees.

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A conservator at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's conservation and research center points out a hidden pocket on a piece of clothing worn by a prisoner at a Nazi concentration camp. VOA

By Arul Louis

India has been hailed for giving refuge to Jews fleeing the Nazi genocide, keeping with its tradition of being a haven for those escaping religious persecution around the world as the UN observed the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The president of B’nai B’rith International, Charles Kaufman, said here on Monday that India lived up to the tradition of a nation of righteousness when thousands of Jews found safety and were welcomed when they fled the Holocaust carried out by Nazis in Europe.

This was a uniquely overlooked episode that needs to be recognised, he said while speaking at a meeting here on “India: A Distant Haven During the Holocaust” that was organised by India’s UN Mission and the B’nai B’rith, a global Jewish service organisation.

India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said that India receiving refugees fleeing the Holocaust was in tradition of welcoming Jews that goes back thousands of years.

Anti-Semitism was a rare phenomenon in India and it occurred in 2008 in Mumbai when the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists attacked the Chabad centre, he said.

pittsburgh shooting, Hate
A sign during a protest gathering on the block of the Jewish Community Center in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where the funeral for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz. VOA

While Jews received refuge, they in turn have contributed to India in the arts, culture and economy, he said.

Some served in the armed forces and are treasured as national heroes, he added.

As the Nazis began their genocidal persecution of Jewish people in Europe, India was engaged in its freedom struggle, yet managed to welcome the refugees, he said.

While anti-Semitism and intolerance again show signs of re-emerging, the examples of compassion in the midst of tragedy must be beacons of tolerance, he said.

An author and expert on Jews and minorities in India, Kenneth Robbins, said that not only for the Jews, but for many others India was a place where minorities were able to flourish.

He gave the example of the Sidis, who came to India as slaves and rose to be rulers – the only instance of Africans ruling non-Africans, he said.

The several thousand Jews who fled Nazi persecution to India in the 1930s, came in several waves starting with the German Jews. They were followed by others from Italy; Austria, East and Central Europe; North Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Poland, Robbins said.

Left to right: Ukraine’s Parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy, German President Joachim Gauck, Hungarian President Janos Ader, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and his wife Marina, President of the European Council Donald Tusk and Ukrainian Prime Minister, Volodymyr Groysman light candles at a monument in Babi Yar ravine where Nazi troops machine-gunned tens of thousands of Jews during WWII, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sept. 29, 2016. VOA

There were also those who married Indians studying in Germany and elsewhere who came with their spouses to India.

Yusuf Khwaja Hamied, the chairman of Cipla, brought down the price of AIDS medications to $6 making to affordable to millions in Africa, saving their lives, he said.

His mother was Luba Derczanska, a Lithuanian Jew who married his father Khwaja Abdul Hamied when he was a student in Berlin, he said.

Among the thousands of Jewish children who came India was Tom Stoppard, the award-winning British playwright and screenwriter. Born Tomas Straussler, he went to school in India in India after his family fled Czechoslavakia.

Stephen Tauber came to India as a child in 1937 when his physician father was offered a job by Ganga Singh, the Maharaja of Bikaner, and received a visa to leave Austria escaping the Nazis.

During his time in Bikaner, he witnessed religious harmony among Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Jews, who respected each other’s religions.

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Remains of Victims in the Nazi Camp, Wikimedia

Two Maharajas, Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja of Nawanagar and Rajaram III of Kolhapur, established camps for Polish child refugees.

Speaking at a Holocaust memorial ceremony earlier on Monday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that not only was anti-Semitism still strong, it was getting worse and we must “reaffirm our resolve to fight the hatred that still plagues our world today”.

“Inevitably, where there is anti-Semitism, no one else is safe,” he warned.

“Across the world, we are seeing a disturbing rise in other forms of bigotry.

Also Read: Online Hate Thriving Even After The Recent Hate Crime In The U.S.

“Intolerance today spreads at lightning speed across the Internet and social media and most disturbingly, hate is moving into the mainstream – in liberal democracies and authoritarian systems alike,” Guterres added. (IANS)

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in and followed on Twitter @arulouis)