I have made no edits, since I stand by what I wrote. I will provide a commentary afterwards:
My visit to the Museum of Tolerance was quite eventful. I had not visited the Museum in decades, so I am glad I could attend again. I will address specifically each of the sites as directed to attend.
HEAR AND MEET A HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR
Mrs. Gabriella Karin was born in Slovakia, which at the time had been part of Czechoslovakia. An expert in pottery and art today, she shares the pain that she had to deal with when fleeing from Nazis and the Gestapo, and also the joy that in spite of the great, evil plan to eliminate all Jewry in Europe failed, and even helped birth the Jewish State of Israel. One early comment that Mrs. Karin shared was particularly tragic. In 1940, when Nazi Germany occupied Slovakia, the deportation of Slovak Jews was not undertaken by Germans, but by fellow Slovaks! It just makes me sick thinking that countrymen would betray their own.
Karin shared a number of photos of her childhood. She was a precious child with a loving family. In fact, two of the most intriguing aspects of her survival took place in two places, but all in one location, the capital city of Bratislava. First, she stayed at a Catholic boarding school. For three years, she stayed with other girls, saved from being separated from her family. She so missed her mother, however. At one point, her mother did come to comfort her.
From there, Karin stayed in an apartment in another section of Bratislava. This was a really tense location, in part because across the street was located the headquarters for the Gestapo in Slovakia. In spite of such a precarious position, she survived! What made it easier for her to go unnoticed? The contract for any apartment dweller explicitly stated that no Jews could live there. Therefore, the Nazis never searched that property!
When World War II ended, she married at 17 years old and moved to Israel. From Israel, she later moved to the United States, specifically Los Angeles, and she worked as a fashion designer here in the area. Later in life, she discovered the name of the Slovakia benefactor who had helped her escape from the Nazi Holocaust. His name was Karol Blanar, and this man had helped many Jews flee to safety from Nazi-Occupied Slovakia. In a previous talk, Karin told the audience that she had been trying to find Mr. Blanar, but had been unsuccessful. An individual in that audience approached her afterwards and offered to assist in finding this man. Karin found out that Blanar had immigrated to the United States. He settled in Ohio. Unfortunately, he had already passed away. His grave maker was unmarked—Karin raised the money to ensure highest honors for Mr. Blanar!
|Mrs. Gabriella Karin and me|
Mrs. Karin’s account is special because she honored another Holocaust Survivor, Mr. Bob Geminder from Poland, who fled to the United States when he was five years old. Sadly, he had passed away earlier this year. What struck me so much about Mrs. Karin above all is that she honored other people, men and women who had helped fellow Jews. It shows great spirit to honor others while recounting the details of one’s life. I also really appreciated that she recognized the 11 million people murdered in the Holocaust, not just Jewish communities—which were the most brutalized.
PARA TODOS LOS NINOS/FOR ALL THE CHILDREN
Along this wall of the higher echelons of the museum, I learned more about the Westminster v. Mendez case, specifically presented by documentarian Sandra Robbie in her film “For All the Children.” The testimonies from Latino activists during and after that celebrated court case were interesting to learn about.
While most people who read history know about Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down the so-called “separate but equal” doctrine which had permitted segregated facilities, especially in education.
Mrs. Robbie’s quote says it all: "So many of us believe that the fight for Civil Rights is a black and white battle … Mendez v. Westminster is the story of people of many colors fighting for American equality right here in Orange County.”
This exhibit I found to be the most disappointing. The fight for the rights of all children, including Hispanic students, should have gotten more attention than this one-wall exhibit had provided. Most Californians have no idea that activists for civil rights helped lead the fight for equal education opportunities for all—and pretty much right in our backyard! Some of the posters and signs along the exhibit point out, sadly, that publication education today has not lived up to the expectations outlined in the Westminster case.
FINDING OUR FAMILIES, FINDING OURSELVES
This was a new and lively exhibit! The narration of different actors and celebrities, including Maya Angelou, as well as Billy Crystal and Carlos Santana, was quite engaging. The story of our forefathers coming from different countries to see the world is a story that all of us should learn. I never realized that Comedian Billy Crystal’s father was into boxing, for example. I learned a little about Crystal’s brother.
One of the exhibit featured the long, arduous, and even invasive process that immigrants had to undergone to enter the United States. The walls had pictured the different doors, exam rooms, etc. which newly-arriving immigrants would go into. The health exams which individual were required to undergo should give us all pause and also a sense of gratitude. Our forefathers endured so much so that we would not have to.
The different stories I learned about, the families who braved many setbacks to come to the United States, reminds me that we need to respect those individuals who play by the rules, pay all the fees, pass all the tests to become American citizens, and we should not permit anyone to diminish the process and the people who followed those processes to make the United States a wonderful place.
The section of the exhibit which featured scenes from Maya Angelou’s novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was a strange transition. Angelou’s account of growing up in TexArkana seemed a little out of place at first, but when the narration of her life, in poetry and prose, came through the loudspeakers, I finally understand how Maya had so much to learn about her parents—her grandparents’—past and the character of their lives growing up in the Old South.
This site was updated considerably from what I had seen from my second year in college. New TV monitors along the walls indicated how diverse the news, the media, and its effects on public opinion have become.
I remembered the two doors, one read “Prejudiced”, the other “Unprejudiced.” This time, however, if anyone approached the “Unprejudiced”, a sign “think twice before trying” appeared on the door. As all of us should.
There was the “Free Speech” exhibit, which included interacting with a scenario and responding to different questions. At this stage of my life, I believe that free speech must be protected all the more, including speech we do not like or find offensive. The scenario which suggested that heated rhetoric from a radio station would so inflame the passions.
The maps detailing different hate groups, as well as the escalation of divisive hatred based on race, brought home to me how important it is for us to fight lies with truth, fear with facts.
THE “HOLOCAUST” SECTION
I never cried at a Museum before. This is the first time I walked out of an exhibit and wept. It’s really horrifying to me that so many people are questioning whether the Holocaust happened. The dramatizations of different Germans sitting at a café was quite informative. I appreciate that the exhibit drew from primary sources to share the accounts from actual individuals concerned about the Nazi Reich.
History doesn’t really impact people unless they have a tactile experience in some fashion. Seeing the letters about Hitler’s plans to eliminate all Jewry, watching the dramatizations of Nazi leaders looking for a more efficient means for destroying every Jewish person in Eastern Europe and throughout the continent, were quite harrowing.
I had forgotten that members of the public who visit this section will walk through sections labeled “Able-Bodied” vs. “Women and Children.” One station in the exhibit focused on the fact that a number of Jewish refugees arrived by ocean liner—and were all turned back! Terrible. Countries need to take care of their own people, but at what people does a nation’s leadership need to take into account that some crises are too great to ignore, and that those refugees need assistance?
The scenes of dead bodies dumped into mass graves was really sickening. In contrast, the account of one Jewish Rabbi who stood up to one of the Nazi officers in a death camp was inspiring: “You will never destroy the Jewish people. All race will live forever,” this rabbi declared. Onlookers who survived that death camp would remark how impressive that Rabbi’s courage was before he and others were forced to march into the gas chambers.
It pains me that I have met more young people who have not heard of the Holocaust. That’s a calamity which must be averted at all costs. “Hope lives when people remember”—Simon Weisenthal.
I do believe that this country needs a more robust discussion on freedom of speech—the problem in Nazi Germany was not only the hateful invective of the Reich and Hitler’s regime, but that opposing parties and independent journalists were silenced. Let’s maintain this right for all to stop hate!
Some things that I did not include in the report which I turned into the court:
1. The Simon Wiesenthal center seems to be losing its focus. There is all this talk about immigration and identity politics, and I fear that much of this obscures the much larger focus of maintaining a livingm working memory of the Holocaust. A growing number of students leave high school in California and across the country--and they know nothing about the decimation of 11 million people, including 6 million Jews and 5 million other so-called "undesirables" at the hands of the Nazi Reich.
2. I am really glad that I included my remarks about freedom of speech. The truth is that Hitler and his hateful Nazis could utter whatever bile they wanted. The problem was that the common people, the activists, the concerned citizens were not permitted to criticism. The answer to speech is more speech. Freedom of speech gives power to the truth to overcome the lies.
Silencing, suppressing speech because it is deemed hateful actually allows hateful speech--and hateful acts--to proliferate. That is exactly what happened during the Third Reich. Right now, sadly too many people are learning the wrong lessons, and they are foolishly concluding that the only way to prevent "hate speech" is to silence speech. That is a form of hate in itself which will protect no one.
3. I would like a broader discussion as to why so many kids are leaving public schools throughout Los Angeles Unified and the greater California system with no knowledge of the Holocaust and other heinous genocides perpetrated throughout the 20th Century. Is it true that no one will care about the Armenians? Is it true that no one will remember the Rwandans, too?
4. When I entered the Museum of Tolerance, I was really surprised that a security guard not only greeted us in the parking lot, but required every guest to have their trunk inspected! The security concerns have grown in and around the facility!
5. During the Holocaust survivor's talk, some members of the audience seemed determined to blame President Trump for the climate of extremism and hate fostered around the country. I commend Mrs. Karin for refusing to take the bait and simply focusing on the historical facts, the historical tragedy, of what she lived through, and yet so few survived.
6. The theme of "Ordinary People" came back to me again in the History Walk-Through on the Holocaust, from Hitler's rise to power to the Allied Victories in Europe. "Ordinary people" did nothing to stop the tide of Hitler's tyranny, but ordinary people also stepped up to stand up to the evils that were engulfing Europe in the early 1940s.
The banality of evil does not diminish the evil, but merely reveals that no matter how much man may pride himself, he is a fallen creature in need of redemption.