People attending the opening of The Courage to Remember traveling Holocaust memorial read the displays before the ceremony begins.
CLEARWATER – Many people came out to remember the holocaust at the opening ceremony Sept. 5 of a remembrance exhibit in Clearwater.
The Courage to Remember traveling Holocaust memorial is on display at the Westfield Countryside Mall, 27001 U.S. 19 N. through Thursday, Sept. 27. The exhibit is on the upper level outside of Sears and is open to the public Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays, noon to 6 p.m.
The exhibit is produced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, presented by the Foundation of California, and made possible by a SNCF grant. The exhibit began in California, and more than 400,000 people in California alone have already seen the exhibit. It features more than 200 photographs that can only be seen through the exhibit, and it also has information about the Holocaust. The information and pictures are broken down into four themes: Nazi Germany, 1933 to 1938; Moving Toward the ‘Final Solution,’ 1939 to 1941; Annihilation in Nazi-Occupied Europe, 1941 to 1945; and Liberation, Building New Lives.
Rod Wilson, president of the Foundation of California, said that this is the second tour of the exhibit.
“Unfortunately, hate crimes and things people do to others based on the color of their skin or religion or all sorts of reasons, it hasn’t stopped,” Wilson said. “And in some cases, it’s getting worse. And we’ve found that now is a vital time to take a moment and to have the courage to remember what happened so we can rise up and stop it from happening again. So this exhibit has over 200 photographs, and most you can’t see anywhere else but here.”
In the exhibit’s 40 panels, it tells the story throughout the timeline of the Holocaust, Wilson said, giving a broad understanding of the Holocaust and what happened to so many people.
“We like opening it in malls because there are a lot of people who come to malls,” Wilson said.
Numerous local officials spoke at the opening ceremony, including Congressman Bill Young; Florida Rep. Jimmy Smith; Florida Rep. Rich Glorioso; and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos.
“The main thing is to not only remember what happened and how it happened,” Young said, “but if the world is not careful, it could happen again. So we have to make sure that it never, ever happens again.”
Glorioso spoke of the estimate 6 million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust.
“Six million individuals,” Glorioso said. “Six million souls with 6 million different goals and dreams. These were the souls that were prevented from all those opportunities.”
It is miraculous that people did survive, he added, but the results of the mass genocide are disastrous.
The ceremony was emotional for Dianne Magree, of Belleair Bluffs. She is part of the Patriot Guard who presented the colors at the ceremony, but that wasn’t the only reason she was there.
“My family, generations ago, is from Germany, and they’re Jewish,” Magree said. “We learned at a very young age. We were taught about the Holocaust. My father was in WW II, my mother was in WW II, my grandparents, they all talk about it, and I talk to my children about it, and they will talk to their children about it.”
Magree said she hopes that what people take away from the exhibit is that they will never forget and will know it happened.
“We just can’t treat people like this,” she said.
The final speaker of the event, Emil Levy of Delray Beach, particularly moved Magree. He said he was born in then Czechoslovakia, and in 1939, his father took him, his two brothers and his mother and tried to escape to Palestine.
“We were caught on the border of Romania and spent almost three years in jail, and then through all kinds of interventions, we were free and we were hiding in Romania, but we finally got to the shores of Palestine,” Levy said.
Levy, now 84, said his family was in a camp in Sibiu, Romania/Hungary. (The city was part of Austria-Hungary through World War I and then became part of Romania.)
Levy has spent his life active in the Jewish faith and pushing for peace.
“We want to do everything in our power so religion is not a basis of separation,” Levy said. “Religion should be with respect and love.”
Levy is also the CEO and on the board of directors for The Flame Society in Sunrise, Fla., which is to “teach the lessons learned from the Holocaust by creating television programs and classroom educational materials and to provide funding for relevant Holocaust-related projects to ensure that mankind will never forget,” according to its website.