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by Wildcat Dianne
August 3, 2008
Atlanta has one of the best Holocaust museums in the USA besides the one in Washington, DC at the Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, and Mom and I got to see it in person this July. My cousin gave us a sneak preview of the Holocaust exhibit before we left Douglasville so we would know what to expect while touring around.
After touring the Leo Frank Exhibit, Mom and I continued on to The Holocaust Gallery. A stained glass window from one of the local synagogues greets you along with a huge and moving photographic display depicting the Holocaust in Europe from 1933-1945.
First, you are greeted by a brief history of the Jewish people in Europe before 1933. Jews were always targets of persecution throughout Europe and several pogroms in Germany and Russia occured from the 13th to late 19th Century. The Russian and Ukrainian Pogroms of the late 19th Century led to thousands of Russian and Ukranian Jews fleeing to the USA. Starting around 1847, several European Jews settled in Atlanta where a small population still lives there today.
Mom and I got to see a detailed display of life for German Jews before Hitler's Rise to Power on January 30, 1933. Thousands of German-Jewish men served Germany during World War I and the German-Jewish population lived an assimilated life in several German cities. By 1930, rumblings were going through Germany and the Nazi party had taken several seats in the Reichstag which got the Jews of Germany worried. After 1933, life became hell for the Jews of Germany and Mom and I saw several photos of German and later Austrian (1938) Jews being subject to horrible things by the Nazis. Pictures of German-Jews being forced to scrub the streets or forced through the streets with signs around their neck for having relations with Aryans put chills through my spine.
The beginning of the Holocaust Gallery has you walking on smooth cobblestones and looking at painted walls, but you go further into the gallery and the persection of the Jews during the Holocaust gets worse and World War II begins, you are walking on rougher floors and the walls become brick like the ghettos the Nazis established throughout most of Europe. There are photos of the relatives and friends of several of Atlanta's Jews who came to America after 1933 and after they were liberated from the concentration camps from 1945 to the 1950's. They are very moving with detailed descriptions of the people and their hometowns and their fates. Thousands of relatives of Atlanta's Jewish population perished in the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sobibor, Treblinka, Chelmno, and Belzec in Poland or in chambers of horrors like Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, and Buchenwald in Germany. A porcelain doll of the sister of one of the survivors on display was especially moving. A Christian woman in Poland had taken her sister's doll for safe keeping when the family was being put into the ghettos, and the sister was killed by the Nazis and the Polish woman returned the doll to her sister who survived the camps.
As things get worse for the Jewish people and the concentration camps are being opened and killing the Jewish people, the exhibit becomes a boxcar from wood from the cattle cars that transported millions of people to their deaths in the camps. The ceiling is decorated with rail ties that were on the way to the death camp at Treblinka and a lantern used in the Sobibor death camp is on display.
The resistance by the Jews, Christians, and in the camps was another moving display with photos of Hans and Sophie Scholl, who were beheaded in Munich in 1943 for their role in the White Rose Resistance and a photo of Roza Robota, a Polish-Jewish girl who was part of the 1944 Auschwitz revolt. Roza provided arms and gunpowder to the leaders of the revolt in the camp and paid for her zealousness with her life on January 5, 1945 when she and three other girls caught smuggling gunpowder were hanged after months of torture at the hands of the Nazis.
After going through the Holocaust photos and displays, we are greeted with liberation and a detailed display of photos taken by the survivors in the Displaced Persons Camps throughout Germany after the war. Many of the Jewish people hated life in the camps and being cooped up behind barbed wire by the Allies and wanted to get on with their lives. Most of them didn't want to live in Europe or under communist rule in Eastern Europe and chose to emigrate to Israel and the USA. Hundreds of these survivors came to Atlanta after the war and several of the photos and artifacts came from them in their suitcases.
There are also taped interviews with the Atlanta Holocaust survivors playing throughout the display to give you an idea about their lives and Mom and I spent over an hour in the Holocaust Gallery looking at the photos and artifacts on display. Mom and I didn't say anything throughout the gallery being so moving and fascinating.
The Breman Jewish History Museum is open Monday-Thursday 10-5, 10-3 on Friday and 1-5 on Sundays. It's closed on Saturdays to observe the Shabbat or Sabbath and all Jewish and national Holidays. For adults, it costs $10 to get in and $6 for seniors and $4 for students. You can tour the place on your own like Mom and I did or have a guide take you around. It is well-worth a day of your time to visit, and I am highly recommending it.
From journal They Don't Call It "HOT-LANTA" for Nothing!
The Breman Jewish Heritage Museum opened on Spring Street in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996 and for the last 12 years, it has shown locals and tourists the history of the Jewish people who have lived in Atlanta since 1847 and a moving photo and artifact display of the Holocaust that killed 6 million Jews and millions of Poles, Gypsies, and other nationalities from 1933-1945.
Mom and I headed out to Atlanta from Douglasville about 11 a.m. on July 31 and immediately put on ESPN Radio to hear about the big trades in baseball before the trading deadline. The prospect of Manny Ramirez going bye-bye from Boston didn't stop us from our excursion, and by the time we got into Atlanta, Manny wasn't going to the Florida Marlins. Mom and I had no trouble getting off the exit on I-20 into Atlanta, and it was only when we were very close to the Breman that we missed one of the turns and wound up on Piedmont Road. GRRR! We wound up in a very nice part of town with beautiful old houses and parks. After pulling over on Peachtree Drive and looking at the maps, Mom and I were still pretty frustrated in our direction and decided to pull into the BP we saw before turning off of Piedmont. A very nice guy from the bakery of the convenience store at BP named Reggie got me in the right direction, and within 15 minutes, Mom and I had arrived at the Breman.
Due to the fear of attacks, the Breman is a very secure museum, and you must park in the gated parking lot. When you get to the door you have to ring a bell for security to let you in. We got inside, and the guard told us we could get our tickets at the gift shop where we were greeted by a really nice lady named Judy. Judy then gave us the PK on the Breman and its history. The day of our visit had a special exhibit on The Leo Frank Case Revisited about a Jewish resident of Atlanta who was wrongly accused of killing a young girl and was lynched while serving a life sentence in the Georgia State Prison. Judy asked us if we had heard about Leo Frank and the TV movie about the case made in 1988 called The Murder of Mary Phagan. I kind of remembered that the movie had Jack Lemmon in it, and the lady said I was right. After Judy told us about the exhibits, we were free to explore them along with the gift shop before or afterwards.
Mom and I first went into the Leo Frank Exhibit. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Leo Frank Case, let me give you the short rub on it. There was a small Jewish population in Atlanta at the turn of the 20th Century and relations between the Jews and Atlantans were very tense. Race riots had occured in 1906 and things weren't very pretty for the Jewish population of Atlanta. On April 26, 1913, a young girl named Mary Phagan went to get her pay from her boss, Leo Frank, at the National Pencil Company, who Frank was the manager for his uncle the owner of the company. Mary Phagan was from Marietta and had moved to Atlanta with her family when her mother remarried and Mary took a job at the pencil factory to have something to do before going back to school that fall.
Mary Phagan's battered, coal covered, body was found in the National Pencil Company's basement the next day, and within days, Leo Frank had been accused of the crime and arrested. Atlanta was looking for a killer and a scapegoat and Leo Frank was arrested because he was the last one seen with Mary Phagan while she was alive. After a sensational trial that lasted about a month, Leo Frank was convicted of Mary Phagan's murder and sentenced to death by hanging. The execution was to be carried out in October 1913, but the Governor of Georgia, John M. Slaton, had a change of heart and commuted Frank's death sentence to life in prison at the state prison near Marietta, Georgia.
The commuting of Leo Frank's sentence infuriated thousands of Georgians who were looking for justice for Mary Phagan's death at the hands of a Jew and sought their own justice against Leo Frank. In November 1915 while Leo Frank was in his prison cell at the Georgia State Penitentiary, a group of Georgians, many from prominent families and occupations, stormed the prison and dragged Leo Frank from his cell and took him to a predetermined place of execution. The prison guards did nothing to stop the mob from lynching Frank, and after Frank was allowed to write a letter to his wife and the promise that his wedding ring would be giving to her, he was hanged from a nearby tree. Governor Slaton.
This case led to the rebirth of the KKK and the Anti-Defamation League in Georgia. After Frank's lynching, Governor Slaton pardoned Frank, and he was threatened with death for the rest of his term in office. The Leo Frank Case went before the Supreme Court years later and since then debate of Frank's innocence has been a hot topic throughout the USA and the Jewish community of Atlanta.
The Leo Frank Exhibit at the Breman was a fascinating display of photos of Mary Phagan, Leo Frank, and Atlanta around 1913. Mom and I spent over 30 mintues touring the small display of newspaper articles on the murder, the trial, and the lynching and you can see several knick knacks and memorabilia of Leo Frank and his family along with Mary Phagan's life story and photos of her and her family.
The Leo Frank Exhibit will be on display at the Breman until December 31, 2008 and in October, they will show The Murder of Mary Phagan mini-series from NBC in 1988 and the Profiles of Courage: Governor John M. Slaton from 1964 that was shown on CBS and starred Walter Matthau. The exhibit is only a small part of the Breman, but it's well-worth your time to go and see it and understand this horrible crime more in depth.
April 4, 2001
From journal Atlanta with the Family