“Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away.” opens on May 8 at Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, located in Battery Park City
Visitors will experience artifacts mainly from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and more than 20 other lending institutions on view for the first time in North America.
The exhibition includes hundreds of personal items that belonged to people killed in Auschwitz and to those who survived.
Some of the items in the exhibit include a child’s shoe stuffed with a sock, a gas mask worn by a prison guard, and the blue and white uniforms that marked the prisoners of Auschwitz.
The Nazis put millions of Jews to death during World War II, including an estimated 90 percent of all Jewish children in occupied Europe.
“It was inhuman, what they did to us,’ 92-year-old Holocaust survivor Ray Kaner said. “There were times that I couldn’t understand as a child. I used to punch myself, and ask myself, ‘Am I in hell?'”
For millions of Jews, the Holocaust ended at the death camps. But this exhibit starts at the beginning, with the rise of the Nazis in the years before the war. So visitors understand not only what happened, but why it happened.
“It’s difficult to go through, but it’s important,” museum Chairman Bruce Ratner said. “Sometimes we have to face evil things in order to understand.”
Auschwitz did not start with gas chambers and crematoriums, and Hitler did not act alone. In one haunting photo, Auschwitz guards are serenaded by an accordion player.
There are testimonials on video, original barbed-wire fencing, and even an operating table with surgical instruments used, historians say, for torture and human experimentation.
The exhibit continues through the end of the year, serving as both a reminder and a warning.
“I thought that the world would change after this, with all the cruelties and human behavior,” Katner said “But it didn’t.”
The Museum of Jewish Heritage is the primary resource in the Tri-State area for teaching and learning about the Holocaust and is the third largest Holocaust museum in the world.
It is located at Edmond J. Safra Plaza, 36 Battery Place, in Lower Manhattan.
For tickets and additional information, visit mjhnyc.org.
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