April 19, 2009
The New York Times today reports on a Holocaust museum that has been established in Skokie, Ill. Skokie became the home of many survivors of the Holocaust, and 32 years ago it was chosen for that reason as the site of a march by a group of neo-Nazis. The Nazis’ plan and the opposition to it set off a debate on free speech. The march never took place, but the hubris of the Nazis inspired Holocaust survivors to be more open about what had happened to them and their families, and that change led to establishment of the museum.
The times reports that “unlike similar institutions, the Skokie museum is almost totally anchored in the local, brought to life with the personal pictures, documents, clothing, testimonies and other artifacts of the building’s own neighbors. And several of the Holocaust survivors are working as docents and other staff members, weaving their first-person stories into the history, exploring issues of genocide around the world.”
That’s a powerful and important concept and one that could be emulated, even if needs be on a smaller scale, in other towns and cities where there are still people left to tell this story first hand. That’s true not only because there will always be those who deny – contrary to the indisputable evidence – that the Holocaust took place, and because even those who acknowledge the Holocaust should be reminded of it – both the fact of it and its enduring impact on families all over the world. Historical epochs are like that; they don’t end on any given day but continue indefinitely to affect the lives of succeeding generations – as the era of American slavery directly affects millions of people living today.
The Times also published an account today of a relatively new body of research on some of the lesser-known Nazi “killing fields.” It’s at this site: