CITY VIEWS: Largest and most comprehensive Holocaust exhibit on Auschwitz opens

May 08, 2019 - 8:43 am
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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- The largest and most comprehensive exhibition on Auschwitz every seen in the United States opens today at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

“Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away.” features more than 700 original objects and 400 photographs including hundreds of personal items such as suitcases, eyeglasses, and shoes that belonged to survivors and victims of the Holocaust.

City Views Host, Sharon Barnes-Waters, toured the museum and spoke to Bruce Ratner, Museum Chairman, and Dr. Robert Jan Van Pelt, Chief Curator.

Mr. Ratner spoke of the symbolism of this exhibition. “This is one of the few places we have witnesses about what really happened. It’s a place we can visit. It’s a place where there are artifacts, so we can really have a sense of the tragedy that occurred, of lives lost, of lives cut short, of 200,000 children killed.”

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This traveling exhibition first opened in Madrid Spain. Ratner spoke of his emotions when first seeing it there and knew it had to come to New York. “I spent 3 hours going through it, the objects the details seeing what actually happened, seeing what evil can do is very important. At the end of it, I just cried. I just burst into tears.”

He talked about seeing videos of ordinary people going about living their lives before being taken to Auschwitz, “and then you realize that this is all gone, an entire world of Eastern Europe an entire culture that went back thousands of years is gone, and the people are gone. We realize that 90 percent of the Jews of Eastern Europe are gone.”

What makes this exhibition so unique and groundbreaking, Dr. Van Pelt said, is that most of the objects have never been seen in North America and a few that have never been seen at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum itself. “We have elements from the ovens of Auschwitz that have not been see in America, the desk of Rudolf Hoss, the artifacts that we have in the display on the camp itself, all of that have never left Poland, and some have never left the Auschwitz Museum storage house but they have made them available to us. So in a sense, this is the first even compared to Auschwitz Museum even when it applies to their own artifacts.”

Van Pelt pointed out the many small items in the exhibits that people put in their allotment of one suitcase before being rounded up and taken on a journey into the unknown. “A vegetable/cheese grater, a sieve or a bottle opener or a mug, each piece in a sense a kind of token of an imagined future and of course they had no future.”

A Nazi WWII freight car which crammed in 80 people on their journey to the death camps and is displayed on the outside of the museum. A little child’s shoe with a sock inside as he was hurried towards certain doom, a gas chamber which killed 2,000 people at a time, these artifacts and pictures, Ratner said, will be an emotional experience for all who come.

As the collective voices and memories of those who witnessed the atrocities of the Holocaust are leaving us, Ratner says “there will be no replacement for our survivors, and we have to understand that and like so many things we have to do the very best we can to educate and young people in particular. This exhibit is really one of the few I’ve seen that does it in a kind of way through a combination of videos through a combination of objects that people can touch, feel and understand and I think it’s really effective.”

The exhibition runs through January 3rd, 2020. To purchase tickets and get more information go to www.Auschwitz.nyc.

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