Today John and I travelled to St. Petersburg to visit the Florida Holocaust Museum. Not your typical vacation tourist spot – but we both feel that there are some events in history that should never be forgotten. The museum itself is an unassuming three story building a few streets from the waterfront. It was founded in 1992 by a local businessman – Mr. Walter Loebenberg, who had escaped Nazi Germany in 1939 and served in the US Army during World War 2. Florida was one of the first states to make Holocaust education mandatory.
For us, touring the exhibits reinforced how cruel mankind can be. Ignorance, hate and prejudice were the root of this genocide – and unfortunately they still exist. The Jewish people were the prime target of Hitler’s extermination plot – but Gypsies, Polish, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and handicapped persons were also persecuted against and sent to the concentration camps.
The Florida Holocaust Museum in home to one of the last boxcars that was used to transport prisoners into the camps. It was a visible reminder as to the horrors that these victims had to endure. Over 100 people were forced into each car, many suffocating or being crushed before arrival at the concentration camp.
Elie Wiesel has written a biography/memoir about being a Jewish prisoner in both Auschwitz and Buchenwald camps. The title is NIGHT. Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for delivering a message of peace to mankind. Wiesel is shown in the photo below – seventh from the left in the middle bunk.
Our visit reinforced to me how lucky we are. There are many days that I moan about a new-found wrinkle or complain that my memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. I should be appreciating the luxury of being able to experience these issues. Over 6 million victims of the Holocaust did not have this chance – at least a million of them were children.
(Please be advised that photos in this post were copied from Wikipedia – the Florida Holocaust Museum does not permit vistors to take photos inside the building)