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Florida (U.S.), Mar 10 (Canadian-Media): Situated in St. Petersburg, Florida the Florida Holocaust Museum is one of the largest Holocaust museums in the country, and is the result of Saint Petersburg businessman and philanthropist Walter P. Loebenberg’s remarkable journey and vision.
Image credit: Website
After escaping from Nazi Germany in 1939 Loebenberg served in the United States Army during World War II. The concept of a living memorial to those who suffered and perished was conceived together with a group of local business people and community leaders, including internationally renowned Holocaust scholars. Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s List, joined the Board of Advisors and Elie Wiesel was named Honorary Chairman of this Holocaust Center.
Walter P. Loebenberg. Image credit: Facebook
Undeterred by constraints of size or location, the Tampa Bay Holocaust Memorial Museum and Educational Center evolved into the preeminent source of Holocaust information in the Southeastern United States and became one of the foremost Holocaust institutions in the country.
As a result of this growth, the Board of Directors approved the purchase of a 27,000 square foot building in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, to be renovated and occupied by 1998.
In January, 1999, the Museum officially changed its name to The Florida Holocaust Museum, to better suit the Museum's mission statement and reflected its statewide and national resource to create greater awareness and impact beyond the Tampa Bay area.
The Museum played a critical role in shaping legislation in 1994 in making Florida one of the first states in the nation to mandate Holocaust education in the public schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade. In collaborative effort between the Museum and the Pinellas County School System, guidelines were developed for K-12 teachers. The guidelines include grade-appropriate instructional goals and bibliography for teaching the Holocaust. These guidelines are used by teachers throughout the nation as well as in Florida.
Preservation of the events of suffering and loss was inevitable to better understand the history and to ensure that it will never happen again. Preservation of these in events in different formats became important to educate the people to challenge and curb the promotion of hatred and intolerance. This resulted in The Florida Holocaust Museum with a vision of reality of peaceful and harmonious future in in our neighborhoods, in our nation and in our world.
Objects from the Toby Knobel Fluek Collection. Credit: Website
The Museum’s core exhibition, History, Heritage and Hope spans the first floor. The history of the Holocaust is presented, by featuring original artifacts, video, and photos, beginning with the history of antisemitism and life before World War II, followed by the rise of Hitler and the Nazis and anti-Jewish legislation. The history of other victim groups, ghettoes and rescue are also shown.
The exhibition culminates with sections about concentration camps and killing centers and a boxcar of the type that was used during the Holocaust.
The final area presented is Lessons for Today where visitors learn about other genocides and acts of hatred occurring today.
The majority of the Museum’s collections has been donated by Holocaust Survivors, liberators and their families. The goal of Museum staff is to preserve this material and make it accessible to families, scholars and the general public.
The Museum is home to the permanent exhibition: History, Heritage and Hope, which uses original artifacts, historical photographs and documents to tell the story of the Holocaust with a special emphasis on the personal stories of local survivors. It also houses the permanent exhibition, Kaddish in Wood: Woodcarvings by Dr. Herbert Savel. These carvings are of French children who were victims of the Holocaust.
The second floor of the the Florida Holocaust Museum houses two temporary exhibition galleries: The Janet Kohn and Larry Wasser galleries. These galleries offer changing exhibitions focused on one particular facet of the Holocaust, or may include contemporary art about the Holocaust or other genocides.
On the third floor of the Museum, small temporary exhibitions are displayed in Kane’s Furniture Hall. Also located on the third floor is the Ray and Nancy Murray Tolerance Education Center which is home to the largest Holocaust and genocide lending libraries in the southeast. Many of the Museum’s public programs, exhibition openings and commemorative events take place in Kane’s Furniture Hall.
Kane's Furniture Hall. Image Credit: Facebook