[ An End to Intolerance (Volume 5 -- June 1997) ]

Local Holocaust Center
Dedicated to Education

By Shasta White
Cold Spring Harbor High School
New York, USA

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center of Nassau County on the Welwyn Preserve in Glen Cove, New York. I was quite surprised at how impressive the memorial was. For a Center that has only existed for three years, it is very remarkable.

[ Nassau County Holocaust Center ]
Nassau County Holocaust Center

As I entered the gates of the Welwyn Preserve, I followed the long narrow winding road which is surrounded by trees and a few old and somewhat dark houses. That is what I pictured this memorial to be like. When I came upon a beautiful brick mansion, I have to admit I was somewhat shocked.

Inside, the center is divided into five rooms, all of which are on the main floor. When entering, the visitor first comes into a foyer with two other rooms branching off from this one. Along the right wall, there is a written history of the Holocaust from 1939 to 1945, which describes each historical year and what took place during each of those years. Toward the back of the room there are pictures displayed of scenes from the Holocaust. These pictures ranged from scenes of Jews being rounded up for concentration camps, to pictures of the crematoriums. On the left wall, there were more disturbing pictures. I saw a photograph of twins used by Dr. Mengele's experiments, mug shots of those who were thought of as criminals (all under the age of 12), and other pictures, depicting life in a concentration camp, Jews going off to slave labor, and the camp sleeping areas.

If you enter the room on the left, you will find paintings and sculptures. Many paintings were painted through the eyes of the artist in order to make people understand about the horrible events that took place from 1939 to 1945. They are abstract paintings mostly in dark colors. They really gave me a sense of sadness.

There are three other rooms in the museum, the first of which depicts life before the Nazis changed the Jews' lives forever. On every wall there are pictures of everyday life: a soccer team, a family get- together, people going to the market. A display case in the center of the room contains articles and magazines revealing the beginnings of hate: antisemitic articles attempting to turn people against the Jews. I think that this display really represents something. It's like life was going on as normal, but there was a small growth of hate, and through these articles hate radiated to the rest of the country, and everyday life came halting to a stop due to a hate that started as something so small.

From this room, there are two more rooms branching off. When you enter the one on the left, you will see rows of chairs and a large television screen. This room is used to show a movie to tour groups. This movie was made by the center and is based on the center's theme, "From prejudice to Genocide." Surrounding the room on each wall, there are photos from the liberation and the Nuremburg trials. The pictures of the trials are narrated by the chief prosecutor. He discusses cross examination of the Nazi leaders and his closing statements. Next to this narration, there are pictures showing the concentration camps when they were liberated. On the back wall, there is a mannequin wearing an American military uniform, and next to it, hanging on the wall, there are pictures of companies of troops that helped liberate the concentration camps. Lastly, on the right wall may be the most disturbing evidence of the Holocaust in the entire museum. The display begins by showing more pictures of liberation, and then it goes into a letter written by a soldier to his wife describing the Jews and the scenes that he saw at the concentration camps. He wrote of how his Jewish guide took him throughout the camp and showed him what the Nazis had done to the people. This display gave me a glimpse of what it was like for the soldiers who liberated the Jews and what their reactions were. I doubt that there is anybody who could read this letter without crying. I had to stop half way through; the story was extremely disturbing.

The last room I visited is very special. It has been dedicated to all the children who suffered or died during the Holocaust. There are drawings on the walls by children displaying their thoughts of what happened. In the middle of the room, there are a few sculptures by children who visited the museum. Right now, on one entire wall, there is an exhibit done by an eighth grade class from a middle school in Nassau county. There is a life-sized statue of a Jewish prisoner enclosed in a barbed-wire fence.

I think that it's great that children are learning so early about the devastation caused by the Holocaust. It shows how new generations are realizing how terrible it was and that maybe later in their lives they will be able to do something to stop genocides from happening. On the brochure of the Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center there is a statement that really is so very important. It says, "Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children and their children another generation." I feel that in order to end genocide, the children of the world must grow up knowing how horrible the Holocaust was.

The Holocaust Center is a place for learning. Schools, religious groups, and other special groups are welcome to come and be guided through the center by Irving Roth, the educational director of the center. He takes each group through the rooms, offering valuable information as well as special insight on the topics since he is a Holocaust survivor. While leaving the museum, I was able to briefly hear him telling a group about the chronological history of the Holocaust. As I listened, I heard things that I never knew before.

The public is invited to see the museum, but only groups get a guided tour. If you happen to be there when a group is coming, they invite you to walk around with them. I also recommend checking out their library.

The Center is also involved in many projects like the "million pennies" project. It was started to memorialize the more than one million children murdered in the death camps. It has been opened up to participating Long Island educational and parochial institutions. The funds raised will be used to create a children's memorial on the ground of the 204-acre Welwyn Preserve. Every school or organization who collects one million pennies has its name written on a gold leaf which is placed on the giant bare-branched tree in the children's room of the museum.

Another project is the Holocaust Center's Long Island high school essay contest based on the centers' theme "from prejudice to Genocide". More than two hundred students participated in this contest last year. The Holocaust center also gives courses to those people who are interested in becoming volunteers and who would like to educate the public at the memorial. The Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center is quite an accomplishment.

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