This post is about an important trip on Thursday, September 26th, just before the major Fall Jewish holidays, to the MUSEUM OF JEWISH HERITAGE in Battery Park City and a private guided tour of the Museum’s landmark exhibit, AUSCHWITZ: NOT LONG AGO. NOT FAR AWAY. Tickets are $35 each. MWC Members, please go to SIGN UP! and purchase your ticket. The MWC tour is scheduled for 11am. PLEASE BE ADVISED: As you would expect, this is very difficult, distressing subject matter, which some may feel is overwhelming.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage is currently presenting an extraordinary exhibit: AUSCHWITZ. NOT LONG AGO. NOT FAR AWAY. For the first time in 74 years after the liberation of Auschwitz an exhibit dedicated to this period and place is being shown to a US audience. Auschwitz was not a single entity, but a complex of 48 concentration and extermination camps which was operated by the Nazis from May, 1940 to January 1945. The artifacts on display are from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and explore the identity of the camp not only as a physical, actual place but also as a symbol of a dark period in history when unchecked xenophobia, prejudice, and hatred were unleashed.
The exhibit traces the development of Nazi ideology and tells the transformation of Auschwitz from a not particularly well-known southern Polish town (Oświęcim) to the most significant site of the Holocaust where more than one million Jews, and tens of thousands of others, were murdered. Although the overwhelming majority of victims were Jewish, Auschwitz was also the final destination for others deemed “inferior” by the Nazi regime and included Polish political prisoners, Soviet POWs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gypsies, homosexuals, and the physically or mentally disabled. Others were “detained” for opposing the government and included cultural and scientific figures, journalists, educators and intellectuals, politicians, resistance members and, of course, anti-Nazi activists. Many of the people in these groups were German citizens.
Included in the exhibit are 700 original objects and 400 photographs. Some of the items are personal ones from those who were in Auschwitz and others are actual items from the camp itself. Concrete posts that were part of the fence of the Auschwitz camp; fragments of an original prisoners’ barrack; a gas mask used by the SS; Picasso’s Lithograph of Prisoner; and an original German-made Model 2 freight train car used for the deportation of Jews to the ghettos and extermination camps in occupied Poland are part of the Exhibit. Additionally, the Museum of Jewish Heritage has also included nearly 100 rare artifacts from its own collection that relay the experience of survivors and liberators who found refuge in the greater New York area.
Short of travelling to Poland and visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, which encompasses two parts of the actual camp, this exhibit is the closest you will be able to come to seeing and trying to understand this devastating period in history.