I started to write this blog post three times, and three times I was at a loss. If you have ever met me, I am rarely at a loss for words.
Chuck and I are staying local through the end of the year, with a few trips around Florida. St Petersburg is our home, so we are exploring all over our region, and there is a lot here for people visiting this part of Florida.
Recently we spent the morning at the Florida Holocaust Museum. This is something we have wanted to do for some time, and we highly recommend you visit them.
The permanent exhibit is located on the first floor with some beautiful artwork and exhibits on the second floor and event space on the third. They have an elevator, so everything is accessible to people with mobility difficulties.
The museum includes a self-guided audio tour, the numbers are easy to find, and the information shared is well narrated.
The permanent exhibit called “History, Heritage and Hope” begins by talking about the history of antisemitism and discrimination; it makes its way into the rise of Nazism, Adolf Hitler and the relocation of people who did not fit the Aryan profile. This included Jewish people, physically infirmed and older people, small children, Gypsies, Polish people, and gay people.
The exhibit delves deep into the relocation of people as well as work, treatment, experimentation, and extermination of people and how concentration camps operated.
They have an extensive collection of items donated by local survivors and families who live in the Tampa Bay area. This includes a wall with nearly 300 photos of family portraits of local families.
A major focal point of the first-floor exhibit is an original railroad boxcar from Poland used to transport people to the concentration camps. It rests on a piece of track from the Treblinka Killing Center.
This silent tribute speaks volumes about the conditions people suffered during their relocation. A hundred or more people were jammed into each car with very little food and water, and poor sanitary conditions. Those who survived the trip were in no condition for whatever lay ahead.
The final portion of the permanent exhibit teaches visitors about present-day genocide and hatred.
Upstairs we viewed artwork by artists Samuel Bak and William Pachner. Very different in their styles but each just as stirring in their message.
Do not skip the third floor. While a majority of the space is lecture and event space, the sculpture and memorial quilt in the staircase is impressive and lead to one of my favorite collections.
Kaddish In Wood is a memorial to the children of the Holocaust.
If you are in the Tampa / St Petersburg area take an hour or so of your day to visit this incredible memorial. As someone whose family were Eastern European Jews and as a gay man, the exhibits are haunting and very moving.
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
– George Santayana