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by smmmarti guide
July 12, 2003
Her fervor claimed my attention as she recounted the story of the Museum’s origin and goals. Back in the 70‘s a neo-nazi young man had petitioned the courts to exercise his constitutional right to hold a rally in Skokie, home to thousands of Holocaust survivors. Despite vehement protests, his right was upheld. Realizing he’d awakened a sleeping giant, he decided ultimately against holding the rally. But the local citizens didn’t stop at that, believing that counter measures were in order.
They built the Holocaust Museum to ensure that future generations would never forget what had happened and worked toward passing a bill in the State Senate that requires the history of the Holocaust be taught to every student in Illinois.
Within 24 hours of hearing the story I jiggled the lock on the museum doors.
Having twice mistaken the dated building for a dentist or insurance office, I wondered suddenly if should have called ahead or made an appointment. Ringing the bell to the upstairs offices, I was relieved to find a remarkably fresh-faced young woman with the unmistakable look of dedication in her eyes.
Reassuring me I was in the right place at the right time, she walked me to the adjacent doorway and turned the key.
"All yours," she announced, "ring if you need anything."
I stood alone staring at overblown black and white photos showing endless rows of humans marching headlong to nowhere; families, eyes sunken, blank, wondering. A looping video in the next room offered relief, a living voice. Ordinary people-next-door recounted stories of survival and loss, their murmurs providing a leitmotif for the tales and supporting accounts posted on the walls. Poignant memorabilia, items gathered from the thousands of survivors who had come to Skokie following the war, are on display; a doll smuggled out from under the Third Reich’s grasp, a locket holding a precious, weary photo of parents who had disappeared..
We know what happened then; millions endured or succumbed to unthinkable horrors and treachery during that reign of terror. At the Holocaust Museum, neighbors have deposited their treasures so that others may come face-to-face with the lives that had been systematically altered in ways we dare not even imagine for ourselves. Reading the tales of profound courage and strength, suddenly realizing the lady who sold you dresses had spent her childhood in ways you never dreamed, clearly demonstrates the message of the museum.
Healing and forgiveness is tantamount for survivors overcoming gruesome pain and suffering. Yet, remembering, paying tribute to victims, recognizing the survivors and educating ourselves and subsequent generations is equally important. This is the dual goal of the Holocaust Museum and what makes it particularly unique. These are the stories of our Chicagoland neighbors and friends.
From journal Delights in Chicago's Near North Suburbs
December 31, 2001
From journal The Chicago city