By Frank Risch
Friday, April 19, was a bittersweet day for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. We celebrated this “final” anniversary of the museum’s permanent exhibition “One Day in the Holocaust: April 19, 1943” by providing free admission to all visitors. Visitors also had the opportunity to hear testimony from Max Glauben, a local Holocaust survivor.
The Museum will close permanently on July 31. In its place, the new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum will open to the public on Sept. 18.
Since this small, yet powerful, exhibition opened in the West End 15 years ago, it has been viewed by more than 1 million visitors, and has changed the lives of tens of thousands of Texas students, by showing them the difference between Upstander and bystander behavior.
The exhibit provides a unique view of the Holocaust by focusing on three pivotal events that took place on one day April 19, 1943.
The 20th Deportation Train from Belgium, carrying some 1,630 Jews to a concentration camp, was stopped by three young men. Two hundred thirty-three Jews managed to escape.
Residents of the Warsaw Ghetto began an uprising that held off the Nazis for almost 30 days.
The Bermuda Conference met with diplomats tasked to resolve the situation involving Jewish refugees desperate to escape Nazi occupied Europe. Nothing was done to raise quotas for Jews in the United States, nor was the British prohibition on Jews seeking refuge in the British Mandate of Palestine lifted.
The first two events illustrate upstander behavior — wartime resistance and heroism against all odds. The final event exhibits bystander behavior — a government and diplomatic unwillingness to take the strong steps necessary to find ways to move Jewish people to safe places outside Europe.
The exhibition shows that the decision to stand up against the forces of brutality, hatred and evil can be made under the worst conditions. It also demonstrates that the decision to stand by and do nothing can perpetuate human suffering and cost lives.
We need only consider the headlines from today’s news to recognize the enduring legacy of April 19, 1943, and more importantly, the consequences of bystander behavior.
Anti-Semitism is on a sharp rise at home and abroad. Anti-Semitic rhetoric has reared its ugly head in public discourse. The Anti-Defamation League 2017 annual report documented a 60 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents, which it called “the largest single-year increase on record, and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking incident data in the 1970s.”
Hate crimes and hate speech are damaging and dividing our communities.
The mission of the Dallas Holocaust Museum has never been more critical, nor more relevant. And this, along with our goal of creating a city of Upstanders, is why we will be opening the new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum on Sept. 18 in the West End.
Until then, be sure to visit the current Museum before it retires its permanent exhibition, “One Day in the Holocaust: April 19, 1943” and its Anne Frank special exhibition on July 31.
Frank Risch is chair of the board of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. Email firstname.lastname@example.org