HOUSTON, TX (Feb. 15, 2006) – Holocaust Museum Houston will mark its first 10 years as one of Houston’s most important cultural and educational institutions with free, outdoor public ceremonies on March 5, 2006, through the publication of a new commemorative book and with the launch of a new exhibit dedicated to the inspirational stories of survivors of the Holocaust who made their homes in the Houston area.
The highlight of the March 5 ceremonies, set to begin at 2 p.m., will be formal dedication of the Museum’s newest exhibit, a 1942 authentic German railcar of the type used to carry millions of Jews to their deaths in the concentration camps of Germany and Poland.
All events will be held outside the Museum, at 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District, and all will be free and open to the public.
Since its opening in March 1996, Holocaust Museum Houston has become a worldwide center for Holocaust education, impacting more than 1,500 school children each day. More than 800,000 guests have visited the Museum, and its curriculum trunk programs and other educational services have touched the lives of more than 2 million children around the world. Teachers from as far away as Uruguay, Chile, Peru and Romania have taken advantage of the Museum’s training programs.
Speaking at the formal rededication ceremonies will be Houston Mayor Bill White; Fred Zeidman, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council in Washington, DC; nationally known Holocaust scholar John K. Roth; and area Holocaust survivor Chaja Verveer. Verveer and her family went into hiding when she was only one year old. She was hidden but betrayed. She was placed on a rail transport to the concentration camp at Bergen Belsen in Germany and then to the camp at Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia. She was liberated in May 1945 and subsequently reunited with her mother.
The Museum’s $1 million railcar project has drawn international media attention and taken years to bring to fruition.
The rare World War II relic became an international symbol of evil and oppression during the war, but was located, acquired and transported to Houston in December 2005 to be transformed into a monument to hope that humanity may one day be free of hatred, prejudice and discrimination.
With its acquisition, Holocaust Museum Houston is one of only a handful of museums anywhere in the world that can provide patrons with an authentic physical reference point from which to learn the horrors that victims of Nazi persecution endured.
“In the human experience, we each must play one of four roles,” said Peter N. Berkowitz, chairman of the Museum’s Board of Directors. “We can be victims. We can be bystanders and watch as evil prevails. We can be perpetrators of injustice, or we can be rescuers who stand up to oppression. Once opened to the public on March 5, this artifact will have completed that circle – from being an ordinary rail car, to becoming a tool for the mass murder of millions and – now – to becoming a symbol to teach and remind the world what can happen when hatred, prejudice and discrimination go unchecked.”
The railcar has been refurbished to its original condition, even including its original stenciled markings from the manufacturer, but will be left empty to commemorate the lives lost there and to give visitors a more realistic impression of what it must have been like for up to 200 people to have been forced inside for days at a time with no food, no water and no necessities.
Also available at the March 5 ceremonies will be the new book Ten Years: Remembrance.Education.Hope, the Museum’s 10th-anniversary commemorative, coffee-table photo book focusing on the Museum’s history and future as well as the personal accounts of survivors who made the Houston area their home after the war.
The book includes a foreword by Roth and walks readers through the Museum’s conception, design, construction, progress and successes since its opening in March 1996. It includes emotional and dynamic black-and-white photography by Houston photographers Michael Marvins and Paul S. Howell, as well as architectural photography by Scott Frances of Esto in New York City.
The 232-page, hardcover book includes narratives from 78 Holocaust survivors who relocated to the Houston area. Their testimonies, taken from more than 260 interviews over many years, are compelling reading and form the basis of the permanent fabric of the award-winning Houston museum itself. They provide a powerful overview of the Holocaust in all its diversity and of the human suffering – and the human triumph – that resulted.
Ten Years: Remembrance.Education.Hope will be available at the Museum bookstore for $59.95 per copy and can be ordered from the Museum Web site at www.hmh.org.
A 10th anniversary commemorative poster designed from the concept of the Museum’s award-winning Wall of Tears also will be available on site.
Opening to the public the same day will be “Survivors’ Journeys,” a collection of family photographs and artifacts chronicling the lives of several Houston survivors, including Edith and Josef Mincberg; Bill Orlin; Al Marks; Leon Cooper; Wolf Finkelman; Glenn Bermann; Bill Morgan; Inge-Ruth Fletcher; Jacob and Rose Eisenstein; Stefi Altman; Ruth Brown; Morris and Linda Penn; Louise and Rubin Joskowitz; Sigmund, Sol, and Max Jucker; Walter Kase; Ruth Steinfeld; Lea Weems; Helen Colin; Charles Kurt and many others.
Those individuals lived through tragic experiences early in their lives – losing loved ones, being forced to hide their identities, suffering through concentration camps and death camps, and then waiting in displaced persons camps for the chance at a new life. Yet, they survived and came to America to begin anew came with a desire to put the past behind them and make up for the lost years of their lives.
Many of the survivors had family in Houston who worked tirelessly to bring them to America. Their efforts are documented in long and emotional letters and affidavits pleading with the U.S. government to help their relatives stranded in Europe. Newspaper clippings from the late 1940s further document the efforts of the Houston Jewish community during the post-war period to help the Holocaust survivors adjust to life in America.
The many achievements of these survivors will be on display, including memorabilia and photographs of survivors who joined the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
“Survivors’ Journeys” will follow these survivors on their journey through life up until the present, highlighting their involvement in the creation of Holocaust Museum Houston and participation as volunteers in many organizations throughout the city. The impact of the survivors is clearly seen in the words of the children whose lives they touched through their involvement in area schools. This uplifting exhibit highlights both the challenges and the triumphs that came to the Holocaust survivors who made Houston their home, and their stories will be an inspirational part of the Museum’s 10th anniversary celebration.
The exhibit runs through Sept. 17 in the Museum’s Mincberg Gallery.
Other exhibits currently on display or opening throughout the anniversary year will build on those themes, including:
“When They Came to Take My Father,” on display through April 2, 2006, is a collection of photographs by former Rolling Stone photographer Mark Seliger. Seliger is one of the most well-known celebrity portrait photographers in the world today. He is a native Texan with family in Houston. His portraits of survivors such as brothers Max, Sol and Sigmund Jucker as well as artist Alice Lok Cahana combine the experience of survivors with fine portraits capturing their personality.
“In a Confined Silence” runs April 21 through Sept. 3, 2006 and features the work of survivor and partisan Miriam Brysk. Brysk was inspired to create mixed-media photo collages following a recent tour of ghettos and concentration camps in Eastern Europe. She incorporated family photos, pictures taken during her travels and archival images into this showing of her mixed-media works. Soft focus and minimal details capture her feelings of contemplation. Brysk will speak during a free public reception at 4:00 p.m. on April 23, 2006 in the Herzstein Theater. A public reception for Brysk will follow from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“The Friedrich Kellner Diaries,” running May 18, 2006, through Aug. 13, 2006, uses Friedrich Kellner’s own notebooks to show how the Nazis distorted the laws of Germany. Kellner served in the German army and was wounded in World War I. During the 1930s, he was an activist in the Social Democratic Party and a vocal opponent of the rising Nazi power. When the Nazis took power, they banned Kellner’s Social Democrats, and the family moved from Mainz to the small town of Laubach.
As chief justice inspector at the Laubach courthouse, Kellner had first-hand knowledge of how the Nazis were distorting the laws of Germany. After speaking out for years, Kellner knew that if he continued he would be threatened with internment in a concentration camp, so he took his protest underground. He began a diary he called “My Resistance.”
Over the course of World War II, Kellner wrote 10 notebooks and kept them in a secret chamber in the back of his dining room cabinet. Shortly before his death in 1968, Kellner gave his notebooks to his American grandson, Scott Kellner, with the hope that his eyewitness account would give coming generations “a weapon against any resurgence of such evil.”
“Smallest Witnesses” runs May 30, 2006 through June 28. This emotional exhibition gives a unique perspective to one of the world’s gravest human rights and humanitarian crises, now unfolding in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. Under the pretext of suppressing an internal rebellion, Sudanese soldiers and government-backed militias known as “Janjaweed” have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and “ethnic cleansing” against civilians.
According to U.N. estimates, as many as 200,000 people may have died already. On a recent mission to refugee camps along Darfur’s border with Chad, Human Rights Watch researchers Dr. Annie Sparrow and Olivier Bercault gave children pens and crayons to draw while their families were being interviewed. Without guidance, the children began to draw scenes from their experiences: the attacks by the “Janjaweed,” the bombings by Sudanese government forces, shootings, rapes, the burning of entire villages and their flight to Chad.
“Smallest Witnesses” presents drawings from young children from seven refugee camps and the border town of Tine who shared their work with the researchers, insisting that Sparrow and Bercault take their drawings with them in the hope that the rest of the world could see their story – the indelible effect of a man-made crisis on its youngest victims.
Ending the anniversary year is “Book of Fire,” running Oct. 6, 2006 through Jan. 28, 2007. American-born college professor Murray Zimiles uses printmaking, painting and mixed media to capture the emotional experience of the Holocaust and violent destruction of Eastern European Jewry during the period. The “Book of Fire” is a 25-page book installed accordion-style. Each page measures 24 feet by 4 feet and will be accompanied by works from the “Fire Painting Series,” illustrating the destruction of synagogues in Eastern Europe.
Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004.
For a complete schedule of other public events and exhibits throughout 2006 or more information, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.