Holocaust Museum announces commemoration program

By Kristian Jaime

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Ramiro Salazar, Director of the San Antonio Public Library, announced programming for the Sixth Annual Holocaust: Learn & Remember month-long celebration. (Photo/ Kristian Jaime)

For the sixth year in a row, the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the San Antonio Public Library (SAPL) have set the stage for a month-long commemoration of the seminal event.

Ramiro Salazar, SAPL Director and one of the founders of the remembrance festivities, joined the museum in announcing this year’s theme of “Art and Survival.” The “Holocaust: Learn & Remember” will include discussions on the rise of radical nationalism in 1940s Germany from the perspective of survivors, artifacts from the period and a film screening to illustrate the plight of artists and filmmakers during the tumultuous era.

“We talked about teaching tolerance through programs [in establishing this event] and partnerships with the museum and have brought the two entities together for six years. Like any great program, there’s many people behind it,” said Salazar.

While the museum has existed in earnest since 1975, it has been at their current location at 12500 Northwest Military Highway since 2000. In that time, exhibits have included timelines that bring the events from just prior to the World War II into focus with subsequent history.

This year also features a spotlight on the film “Nathan the Wise,” originally by playwright Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in 1779. The film adaptation was directed by Manfred Noa, a celebrated filmmaker with 45 projects to is credit, in 1922.

Eva Balcazar, a Holocaust survivor, recalled her family’s relationship with Noa and underscored the sentiment that art and cinema were thriving prior to the censorship that swept the country as Hitler rose to power. She was among the fortunate ones that fled the country to relocate in Ecuador and keep the legacy of Jewish artists, musicians and filmmakers alive.

“The ones that suffered the most were the intellectuals, the artists, the writers. Many left so that we can still enjoy their work today. But the majority didn’t and the immense brain power and creativity that we lost as a result of what happened later on was a tragedy,” Balcazar said.

Yet it was intrepid individuals like her parents that actively were seeking and eventually found a home with other Jewish refugees. Among them were other families that told their stories and those of the prolific individuals who were deemed too controversial for the Nazi regime.

Before long, that same community included an estimated 300,000 by 1941. In establishing a new life, the first order of business was to worship freely. With religious services returning unimpeded, the cultural renaissance quickly followed. But the damage was done. In the wake of a fierce war and atrocities to innumerable groups, Germany would never be the same and the scars of one of the planet’s darkest points would last for generations.

“[Nathan the Wise] was a plea for tolerance, but the propaganda machine of the time was teaching religious intolerance,” said Ellen Ollervidez, the director of the Holocaust Memorial Museum. “The message of the film was a threat to the regime and those were sensitive times like today. This film is a reminder that good will can be a bridge between what divides us.”

Among the resources developed by the museum is the Holocaust History Project. The program consisted of a specially created documentary film, a discussion period with a trained facilitator, a classroom visit with a Holocaust survivor and a teacher’s manual. It was offered to schools free of charge.

Today, thousands of students annually visit the museum where they are provided with a docent led tour explaining the history of this time period, view a movie or participate in a meaningful activity and hear a Holocaust survivor’s testimony.

Form more information on “Holocaust: Learn & Remember” as well as all the exhibits of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, visit their homepage.

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