ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The world is remembering the six million Jews and millions of other victims murdered by the Nazis on this International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
More than seven decades after the defeat of the Nazi regime, there are still too many people who deny this horrendous chapter of modern history.
Now in its 30th year, the Florida Holocaust Museum is on a mission to preserve the history and to combat a rise in anti-Semitism.
Just last year, the museum itself was the target of an act of hatred when someone sprayed anti-Semitic graffiti on the side of the building.
St. Petersburg police investigated the vandalism as a hate crime, but no one has been arrested.
The museum’s interim director Erin Blankenship said that the incident reenergized her staff.
“We know that our mission is more relevant and more important than ever, and especially as we are seeing our survivors age and we are losing our survivors in the near future,” Blankenship said.
At a virtual “Lunch and Learn” hosted by the museum on this international remembrance day, Auschwitz concentration camp survivor Helen Kahan shared her personal testimony on the horrors of the Holocaust.
“They were killed in the gas chambers, and then were cremated,” Kahan said. “Our only crime was that we were Jews.”
Thursday marked 77 years since the Soviet Army liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. A photo on display in the Florida Holocaust Museum shows some of the 7,000 sick and dying prisoners greet their liberators.
The main exhibition, “History, Heritage and Hope,” tells the stories of Holocaust survivors who settled in Florida.
“You’ll see their faces, you’ll read their stories, you’ll see objects that they saved,” Blankenship said.
An original boxcar in the center of the exhibition is symbolic of the suffering and systematic murder of the six million Jews by the Nazis.
“Up to 100 people were stuffed in these boxcars,” Blankenship explained. “People couldn’t stand, they couldn’t move, they couldn’t breathe. They were without food or water for several days while they were deported to a concentration camp or killing center.”
The mission to “Never Forget” extends beyond the walls of the museum through educational partnerships with schools across the state.