Families Share in Free Activities at Holocaust Museum Houston during Museum District Day

HOUSTON, TX (Aug. 19, 2008) – Adults can learn from the true-life stories of two Houston-area survivors of the Holocaust and find out how they can help end the genocide in Darfur while children participate in a free arts and crafts project designed to teach them about inspiration and hope during this year’s events at Holocaust Museum Houston as part of Houston’s annual Museum District Day.

All activities will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Museum’s Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District. Admission and all of the day’s activities are free.

Adult visitors can watch the informational movie "Voices from Darfur" about the conflict in Darfur and sign letters to their congressmen urging the United States to do more to stop the violence after touring the Museum’s world-premiere exhibit "Darfur: Photojournalists Respond."

Eight internationally known photographers who have witnessed the atrocities there first-hand have taken unforgettable photographs that serve as a testimony to the injustices occurring daily in Darfur. 

The exhibit features 30 photographs from those eight photographers, all of whom participated in the book “Darfur: Twenty Years of War and Genocide in Sudan,” created in partnership with Proof: Media for Social Justice, Amnesty International and Holocaust Museum Houston and edited by Leora Kahn.

The exhibit covers three periods in the Sudan crisis, including images shot in 1988, when an estimated 250,000 Sudanese died of starvation; images from 1992 and 1995 that capture the atrocities of a civil war, when hundreds of thousands fled their homes to other destinations in Sudan or left the country altogether; and images from 2005 and more recently, bringing to light the severity of the humanitarian crisis underway, with the Sudanese government and the "Janjaweed" militias committing systematic violence on the people of Darfur.

Children will have an opportunity to learn about hope from the Museum’s new interactive exhibit "Escaping Their Boundaries: The Children of Theresienstadt."

The ability of children of the Holocaust to confront harsh realities and transcend their physical boundaries through creative expression is the focus of the new exhibit in the Museum’s Mincberg Gallery.

When Nazi Germany occupied Czechoslovakia, the town of Terezin was turned into a ghetto and renamed Theresienstadt. Jews were gathered in this ghetto before being sent further east to the extermination camps. During its existence, more than 12,000 children passed through the Theresienstadt ghetto.

The exhibit features more than 40 objects on loan from the Beit Theresienstadt Museum, Archive and Educational Center in Israel, including collages, drawings, diaries, magazines, games and marionettes used or created by children of the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia. Many of the artifacts have never before been on public display.

The collection includes a rare children’s toy, a 1943 handcrafted children’s game inspired by the popular board game in which property, houses and hotels are bought and sold.

One drawing, "Little Town in the Palm of Your Hand," is of a young girl’s hand. To keep her spirits up and remind her of what was important to her, she drew pictures of all of the places that were important to her in the palm of her paper hand. Children will be able to do the same in workshops throughout the day.

Also that Saturday, two Houston-area survivors who endured the Czech camp’s torments, Ben Waserman and Chaja Verveer, will speak about their experiences. Verveer will address morning crowds at 11 a.m., and Waserman will speak to afternoon visitors at 2 p.m.

Waserman grew up in 1930s Berlin, Germany, but the Gestapo eventually seized the family’s tailoring business and his family was forced to flee in 1938. His father was arrested in 1941 and sent to Buchenwald, where he perished. After a year in hiding, Waserman, his mother and brother were caught and sent to Theresienstadt. At one point, Waserman was placed on a train bound for the death camp Auschwitz but was pulled off by his mother who argued with a guard over his selection.

The Wasermans were liberated from the camp by Russian troops in May 1945. He came to the United States in June 1946 and opened his own audiovisual production company in 1970.

Verveer was just an infant when her mother placed her in hiding in 1942, but in February 1944, her host family was betrayed and she was sent to Westerbork, a transit camp. She left there in September 1944 on the last train out of the camp with 50 other children bound for Bergen-Belsen and subsequently was sent to Theresienstadt.

The Museum’s permanent exhibit, "Bearing Witness: A Community Remembers," will have docents on hand throughout the exhibit area to answer questions throughout the day. The exhibit is personalized with the testimony of Houston-area survivors who lived through the genocide of World War II. The exhibit begins by carrying visitors back to pre-war Europe and revealing the flourishing Jewish life and culture once there. Authentic film footage, artifacts, photographs and documents expose Nazi propaganda and the ever-tightening restrictions on Jews in the steady move toward the "Final Solution." 

The exhibition concludes with two 30-minute films of testimony, "Voices" and "Voices II." These films describe the horror of the Holocaust through the moving, first-hand accounts of survivors, liberators and witnesses who made their homes in the Houston area after the war.

Also on view will be the Museum’s 1942 World War II rail car of the type used to carry millions of Jews to their deaths and a new exhibit featuring a 1942 Danish fishing boat that tells the heroic story of how more than 7,200 Jews were rescued from almost certain execution. 

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.

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 more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.

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Holocaust Museum Houston is an accredited member of the American Alliance of Museums.

Hours and Admission
Museum Hours:

Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Museum Admission:

$12 for adults
$8 for active-duty military and AARP members
Free for children, students and college-level students with valid ID
Free admission on Sundays

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