The Houston Holocaust Museum
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Visiting the Houston Holocaust Museum is an experience sure to affect everyone that goes there in a significant way. It would be impossible to look at all of the photos, videos, and artifacts left behind by the victims of this horrendous part of history without feeling something deeply.
That monstrosities like this have ever happened in the first place is hard to comprehend. How could any human being treat other human beings in such cruel and sadistic ways? We must never forget or allow something like this to happen again.
Sadly there are still people who wish to kill others for one reason or another. All too often we hear of acts of terrorism where innocent bystanders are killed. Governments around the world are on the alert and try to stop such carnage from occurring. Many actions of planned attacks are halted due to good intelligence and police work. The terrorist acts which do succeed, make the news as sadly more innocent blood is shed.
The photos below show pictures of happy Jewish families and gatherings before the Nazi era. The Jewish people have a long biblical history going back thousands of years. They had become successful participants in communities scattered all across Europe before Hitler coming into power.
The Holocaust will always be known for viciously slaughtering over 6 million Jews under the direction of Nazi Germany and collaborators of that evil regime. Gypsies, homosexuals, communists, and others were also put to death.
Be forewarned that many of the following images are hard to view!
The Nazis believed that the Germans were a superior race. All others were to be systematically eliminated even those of German heritage if they were disabled in any way. It is sickening to learn how all of this proceeded and was carried out.
In the beginning, the Jews and those considered to be inferior were separated and quartered in certain areas. Their homes and businesses were confiscated. They had to wear identifying yellow stars sewn on their clothing.
Huge bonfires consumed books even such ones as Sea Wolf by Jack London were burned. There are a few books on display that were hidden and escaped those fires shown inside the Houston Holocaust Museum.
Dr. Joseph Goebbels ordered the public burning of books in May of 1933. Many books written by Jewish authors such as Albert Einstein were included, but others were also burned. Helen Keller was one such author who had some disabilities. She was deaf and blind, and that did not fit into the Nazi ideal of racial superiority!
German children were taught from specially approved books which promoted the ideals of Nazi Germany. Racism and hatred of Jews and other “inferior” types of people were taught in schools. They were even shown to judge a person by their outward appearance.
The airways were filled with Nazi propaganda, and if the goal is to change attitudes and behavior where better to start than with children!
Adolf Hitler became the leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party in 1921. His book Mein Kampf published in 1925-26 spoke to the issue of survival of the fittest. With that ideology in place and as his power increased his goal of wiping out all “inferior” races began.
The Jews and others were rounded up and most often hauled off in railroad cattle cars to extermination camps. Usually, those full cars with precious little fresh air and no sanitation were on the rails for days. Many of the people died while in transport. The suffering and odors had to have been horrific!
When disembarking, some people who had survived the transport were immediately killed such as mothers with young children. If a person was deemed able to work, some were temporarily spared and forced to work in labor camps with starvation rations of food. When they could no longer work, they were then killed.
Many people were first forced to dig their graves. Mass graves had bodies piled and stacked until the ditches were filled to the top.
In addition to being shot or starved to death in work camps, the majority of people killed were gassed to death with carbon monoxide or cyanide gas.
Ovens were built to act as crematoriums to get rid of the massive accumulation of bodies.
Medical experimentation was done to some hapless individuals.
Some people tried to help the Jewish people by hiding them as happened in the case of Anne Frank and her family. I still remember reading the book with her diaries when I was a child. In the end, they were discovered and lost their lives.
Others tried smuggling Jews out of the countries in which they were being captured and slaughtered. People helping the Jews also risked their own lives, and many who were caught were also killed in retaliation.
One such success story concerns the rescue of just about all of the Jews living in Denmark at the time.
A plaque outside the museum and near the boat and rail car on display reads as follows:
“Danish fishing boat donated by N.B. Ferdinandsen & Sons A/S, Gilleleje, Denmark in honor of rescuers Niels Borge Ferdinandsen & Johan Jorgensen.
In October 1943, upon learning of the Nazi plan to deport the Jewish population, the people of Denmark secretly ferried more than 7,200 Danish Jews to Sweden on boats of this type. Each boat could hold 6 – 8 people hidden in cargo areas below deck. This swift action saved the vast majority of Denmark’s Jewish population.
‘Whoever saves a single life it is as if he saved an entire world.’
–Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5″
Towards the back of the museum is a room with collections of soil from the many death camps. It is a somber thought to realize that this is part of what is left to remember those millions of people who perished under that vile Nazi regime.
There was another room filled with paintings. That is undoubtedly changed out from time to time.
In the backyard of the museum was this monument.
Inscribed into the granite is the following:
“Though there is anguish deep in my soul – what if I must search for you forever? – I must not lose faith, I must not lose hope.
Alena Synkova, age 16, Theresienstadt.”
There is a theater in the Houston Holocaust Museum with a continually running film documentary. The people speaking are those who survived the Holocaust and who now live in Houston. About 300 settled in Houston after the end of World War II.
I found this to be one of the most moving of experiences hearing their first-hand accounts of what they had experienced and will remember to their dying day. Tears rolled down their faces as they recounted some of the degrading things that were firmly embedded in their minds.
A young Czech boy wrote a poem while he was in a concentration camp. He ultimately died at Auschwitz. It was his butterfly poem that was published in 1964 which inspired this project.
This colorful display called the Butterfly Project carries great meaning. It took over 20 years to complete as school children from around the world contributed butterflies of all sizes, compositions, and colors to the project.
Commemorating the 1.5 million children who lost their lives during the Holocaust, each butterfly represents a child. A mere fraction of them is on display. Hopefully, the children of today, particularly those who participated in this project along with their teachers, will never forget those who died and will always help to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again.
This is a mere fraction of what there is to see and learn inside of this 4th largest Holocaust museum in the U.S. While it is not exactly like spending a fun day at the zoo, it is important that museums and memorials like this exist. We must never forget and do all within our power to avoid similar tragedies in the future.
You can visit the Holocaust Museum at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, Texas 77004.