Tag Archives: Holocaust

Reflections on “Inside America’s Auschwitz”

24 Apr

By Elyse Warren

In the Smithsonian article, “Inside America’s Auschwitz,” Jared Keller wrestles with the shadows of America’s riddled past with racism after a visit to Louisiana’s Whitney Plantation Slavery Museum. The museum, which opened in December of 2014, marks the first museum in the nation to be recognized as a slave museum. The museum pays homage and bears witness to the history of slavery and crimes against humanity committed against the slaves who were forced into labor at the former indigo, sugar, and cotton plantation.


The memorialization and pedagogical design of the tours conducted at the museum break from the confines of the conventional history lesson given in the classroom or at other plantations. The focus is placed on providing the visitor the opportunity to understand the slave experience and remove, as Keller notes, the veil of the Gone With The Wind view of America’s Southern plantations. The experience disillusions the visitor from the romanticism associated with the grandeur of the planation homes and provides a narrative that can not only educate, but act as a change agent within the visitor when they conclude their experience.


This thoughtful design mirrors the experience of visiting sites of atrocities committed during the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, specifically the renowned pedagogy and reconciliation constructed through Germany and Poland’s memorialization of the Holocaust. Thanks to the generous support of the Jewish Federation and Dr. Barry and Mrs. Anne Stein, I participated in the March of the Living (MOL) in 2011 with five other high school students from Sarasota and witnessed the concentration camps in Poland and traveled to Israel. Reflecting on the experience, I can still vividly remember the sensory details of visiting the concentration camps and ghettos in Poland. The stench of the rotting wood of the barracks in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the scraped walls of the cattle car at the Lodz Ghetto, and the cold, sterile, space of the gas chambers at Majdonek that were stained with an effervescent turquoise blue from the Zyklon B chemicals. All the details wove together the prisoner experience in the concentration camps into the fabric of Holocaust memorialization and memory.


In particular, visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps manifested a poignant experience of walking through endless barracks and fields which evoked a painful feeling of absence. The absence was augmented by comfort and support from peers and the humbling ability to walk through the space with survivors to learn from their testimony. However, the experience would not have been whole without the strong use of narrative and contextualization provided in the education by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum Center and the staff we had on the MOL. To better understand the role of education and how a nation tries to reconcile with a fraught past, I took my passion from the MOL trip and visited Poland again during a study abroad program in college the following year. I took the experience of the MOL trip and applied it to my studies of how Germany and Poland reconcile the memory of the Holocaust through education and memorialization. Staying in Oswiecim, where Auschwitz-Birkenau is located, helped me understand more fully the role pedagogy in education, as Keller commented, helps to build understanding and reconciliation with the past to ensure that “never again” reins absolute.


Paralleling Keller’s experience at the slavery museum, I felt a call to action when I left Poland after the March of the Living and again when I studied abroad. It was a discovery in terms of sense of self, belonging, and meaning not only to Judaism, but to Israel and preserving the history for the next generation to bear witness. Keller noticed the same call expressed in a tour group of young African American students that took to heart the moving mission of the museum. The article by Keller is his call to recognize and draw parallels to how America may learn valuable lessons from Germany, Poland, or even Rwanda in reckoning with the past centuries late.


While the two atrocities mentioned have different context and history, they both speak to the call for “never again.” We serve as stewards to the next generation, as the phrase L’dor Vador emphasizes. Echoing a note left at the slave museum, fostering and encouraging the movement to provide enriching educational experiences, whether through the March of the Living or a slave museum, will help ensure that the future generation knows and will not forget the past.


To learn more about the March of the Living program, click HERE.



Young Ambassadors Update: Day 13

24 Jun

Today was a sad, but interesting and fun day. We did a few things such as planting a tree, visiting the Old City of Jerusalem, and some last minute market buying.

The highlight of the day was beginning. The group woke up around 7:30 in the morning and we soon left to start our day at Yad Vashem. For those who are unaware, this is the Holocaust museum located in Jerusalem. Our tour was around 4 hours long and consisted of a 45 minute video of a holocaust survivor and then we walked through the exhibits of the museum speaking about each room in detail. Not only was the information interesting, but the building itself was amazing. The architecture put into the building was beautiful and meant to instill emotion into the visitors’ hearts.

The part that impacted me the most in the museum was the children’s memorial center. As we walked in, it got dark and everything around us was enlarged. It was as if we were truly children again. The door was 4 times our height and everything appeared scary. I couldn’t help but think that how I was feeling was similar to how a young child in the Holocaust may have felt at their arrival to a concentration camp. The amazing thing about the architecture is that the building was build this way purposely. Not only was the information inside the museum valuable, but simply going to the building and just walking through was an emotional experience due to how it was set up. The museum in my opinion is one of the most important things I believe the Young Ambassadors have done on this trip. I feel honored to say that I am fortunate enough to have made it to Israel, and will forever mourn for the children of the Holocaust who had this right stripped from them.

Jared D. is a participant on the Bob Malkin Young Ambassadors Teen Leadership Program.


75th Anniversary of Kristallnacht

5 Nov
1389.8 Holocaust C

Germans walk by a Jewish business destroyed on Kristallnacht

On November 9, 1938, Nazi storm troopers and German citizens launched a massive, government coordinated attack on Jews throughout Germany.  The mobs burned synagogues, destroyed businesses, ransacked Jewish homes and brutalized the Jewish people.  A total of 1,350 Jewish synagogues were burnt to the ground or destroyed; 91 Jews were killed; 30,000 Jews were thrown into concentration camps; 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed; and thousands of Jewish homes were ransacked.

This night is known as Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, because the streets were covered with broken glass from all the Jewish windows.  2013 marks the 75th anniversary of this horrific event.

Kristallnacht was a turning point in the history of the Third Reich, marking the shift from anti-Semitic rhetoric and legislation to the violent, aggressive anti-Jewish measures that would culminate with the Holocaust.

We are told to NEVER FORGET.  Never forget what happened during the Holocaust so that we may prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. Teach your children and grandchildren the lessons of the Holocaust.  As you may know, Florida is one of only five states in the US where Holocaust education is mandated in public schools.  Despite the best efforts of teachers and school administrators, many students still don’t seem to get the message.  This video demonstrates the need for schools and organizations, like our Jewish Federation, to continue to educate those of all ages about the lessons of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust.

To that end, The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee will host an Interfaith Kristallnact Commemoration on Sunday, November 10 at 3:00pm at Temple Beth Sholom. The event will feature choral performances by Gloria Musicae and The Sarasota Jewish Chorale as well as participation from Holocaust survivors, children of Survivors and area Jewish, Christian and Catholic clergy:

  • Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Diocese of Venice
  • Hazzan Jeff Webber, Temple Beth Sholom
  • Rev. Dr. Tom Pfaff, Chair of the Sarasota Ministerial Association
  • Pastor John W. Walker Jr., Chaplain for Ringling College of Art and Design, New College and University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee
  • Deacon Humberto Alvia, St. Jude Church
  • Joel Swallow, Chairman, Mayor’s Feed the Hungry Program of Sarasota-Manatee

As well, Dr. Sigmund Tobias will speak about his experiences as a young boy in Berlin in 1938.  His remarks will touch on the history of Kristallnacht and what it represents; he will also discuss the importance of standing up against evil today.

Dr. Tobias has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Columbia University.  He served as a Visiting Professor at the Shanghai Institute of Education where he began, “Strange Haven: A Jewish Childhood in Wartime Shanghai.”  Dr. Tobias participated in two films on the subject, Shanghai Ghetto and The Last Refuge – The Story of Jewish Refugees in Shanghai.  A blog describing Dr. Tobias writing on Jewish subjects may be found here.

For more information, or to make a reservation for the program, visit www.jfedsrq.org/events.aspx or contact Orna at onissan@jfedsrq.org.