St. Petersburg museum on mission to improve Holocaust education statewide

Pinellas County

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A survey of all 50 states in 2020 found that Florida is one of the states with the lowest knowledge of the Holocaust.

The Florida Holocaust Museum through its education programs is working to change that.

“We are trying to use the lessons of the past to create a better future,” the museum’s executive director Elizabeth Gelman told 8 On Your Side.

The nationwide survey by the Claims Conference found that nearly two-thirds of Americans under the age of 40 did not know the Nazi regime murdered six million Jews.

“We’ve seen so much Holocaust denial, Holocaust distortion and in that atmosphere we must all be ready to know the facts,” Gelman explained.

The museum had been closed for most of the pandemic before reopening earlier this month.

With capacity limits and social distancing, the museum invited guests for free on Wednesday in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day 76 years after the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp.

School field trips are still on hold, Gelman said.

“We’re doing something called Zoom with a survivor and so we’re able to bring a holocaust survivor virtually into classrooms throughout the state of Florida,” Gelman said.

Gelman said the museum has a strong partnership with the Florida Department of Education and the administration to make Holocaust education a priority.

“I would venture to say in 10 years when they do that survey again of this group of students, the answers will be markedly different,” Gelman said.

8 On Your Side asked Gelman about this year’s remembrance day coming just three weeks after the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol. One widely circulated photograph showed a Virginia man at the riot wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt.

“In Germany, certainly we saw how quickly the country moved from ideology to murder and so I think it’s important we take very seriously the people who espouse hatred whether antisemitism or hatred against any other person unlike themselves,” Gelman said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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