Florida Holocaust Museum

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“We Shall Remember Them”.

Today is Veterans Day, Remembrance Day and Armistice Day and it is the day we remember all those who gave their lives serving in the armed forces.

Remembrance Day, as it is known in the United Kingdom, is observed on 11 November to recall the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918. The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem “In Flanders Fields”.  These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant red color an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war.

Hostilities formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month,” in accordance with the Armistice (Armistice Day, signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente between 5;12 and 5:20 that morning.  World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919.

In 1945, after the war, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War 1. Weeks led a delegation to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who supported the idea of National Veterans Day. Weeks led the first national celebration in 1947 in Alabama and annually until his death in 1985. President Reagan honored Weeks at the White House with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in 1982 as the driving force for the national holiday. Elizabeth Dole, who prepared the briefing for President Reagan, determined Weeks as the “Father of Veterans Day.”

It is against that background that recently we made a visit to the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg. The museum documents one of the darkest, most devastating periods in history. The Holocaust was the state sponsored, intentional murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazis, their allies and collaborators between 1933 and 1945. When Germany surrendered on 8th May, 1945 and the genocide stopped, two thirds of Europe’s Jews were dead, including 1.5 million Jewish children.

A tour of the museum will take around two hours to complete as you walk from exhibit to exhibit reading and listening to the detailed narration. The museum is split over three floors with the museum’s permanent exhibition “History, Heritage and Hope” spanning the first floor. Featuring original artifacts, photographs and videos, it carefully presents the history of the Holocaust.

The exhibition begins with the history of antisemitism and life before World War II and depicts the rise of the Nazi’s and anti-Jewish legislation. The exhibition then moves on to show details about the concentration camps and killing centers before you arrive at the museum’s central piece, the boxcar. The museum is home to one of the few remaining railroad boxcars used by the Nazis to transport Jews and other prisoners to places like Auschwitz, Dachau and Treblinka. Boxcar #113069-5 now rests on original tracks from the Treblinka Killing Center as a silent tribute to those who perished in the Holocaust.

The second floor of the museum features the work of Larry Wasser, Janet Kohn and Center Galleries and these galleries changes from time to time as they help tell the story of the terrible events of the Holocaust.

The third floor of the museum is comprised of the Herbert and Isabel Savel Training Gallery, the Murray Tolerance Learning Center and the library. The floor is used for teacher trainings, student tour groups, lectures and commemorative events.

The Florida Holocaust Museum is the largest of its kind in the South Eastern United States and is accredited by the American Association of Museums.

Make sure you pay a visit when visiting St. Petersburg.

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