Skip to main content

Holocaust artifacts bear witness

By Suzy Snyder, Special to CNN
June 12, 2013 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum textile conservator Cynthia Hughes carefully handles a concentration camp uniform that had been worn by a Holocaust survivor. The museum embarked on a national tour this year to commemorate its 20th anniversary. Curators were on hand to review and collect artifacts. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum textile conservator Cynthia Hughes carefully handles a concentration camp uniform that had been worn by a Holocaust survivor. The museum embarked on a national tour this year to commemorate its 20th anniversary. Curators were on hand to review and collect artifacts.
HIDE CAPTION
Photos: Donations to the Holocaust museum
Donations to the Holocaust museum
Donations to the Holocaust museum
Donations to the Holocaust museum
Donations to the Holocaust museum
Donations to the Holocaust museum
Donations to the Holocaust museum
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has been on a 20th anniversary four-city tour
  • Museum collects artifacts from survivors and their families to add to its collections
  • Suzy Snyder: When survivors are gone, artifacts, documents, photos and films will tell the story

Editor's note: Suzy Snyder is curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

(CNN) -- The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's ability to teach the lessons of the Holocaust to future generations relies on its collections. The museum has been on a 20th anniversary four-city tour to engage the public and gather artifacts that tell survivors' stories in vivid, lasting and personal ways.

The museum held a historic gathering of Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans in Washington for a national marking of its 20th anniversary.

The road trip started in Boca Raton, Florida, and continued in Los Angeles and New York. Now we're in Chicago, where Sunday, June 9, the museum will hold a daylong public event with many opportunities to engage with museum resources, people, and programs, and pay tribute to local Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans.

Suzy Snyder
Suzy Snyder
The race to rescue Holocaust relics

In Los Angeles, we met a woman who was born in 1939, after her father was deported from Vienna, Austria, to the concentration camps, where he spent the next five years.

Her mother and grandmother worked for the Jewish community and were never deported from Vienna. This woman spent her childhood in the hospital of the Viennese Jewish community, where her mother managed to survive and keep them from being deported.

7 life lessons from a Holocaust survivor

It was amazing that three generations of Jewish women managed to survive Nazi occupation. It is extremely unusual. They had to care for themselves, surviving day to day, and care for their very young child. It seems unfathomable they made it.

In New York, a family donated letters and artifacts from their uncle and his wife, who were on the S.S. St. Louis, a ship that in 1939 left Hamburg, Germany, bound for the Americas with about 900 Jews aboard fleeing the Nazis. The were refused entry into Cuba and the United States and headed back to Europe, where many of them eventually wound up in the hands of the Nazis. The uncle and his wife were deported to concentration camps. The wife survived; the husband perished.

When the survivors and other witnesses to the crimes of Nazi Germany are no longer able to tell their stories, it will be the collections -- artifacts, documents, pictures, films -- that will help transmit this history and its lessons.

That's why we're racing to rescue the evidence of the Holocaust by working in 40 countries to preserve these materials.

Elie Wiesel: Faith in the messenger

To date our collections include more than 17,250 objects, 68.1 million pages of documentation, 135 million digital images from the International Tracing Service, 87,500 photographs and images and more than 1,030 hours of video footage. We expect our collections to double in size over the next decade.

The Museum's 20th anniversary is bringing Holocaust history to communities nationwide. Each tour stop featured programming that explores the history of the Holocaust and looks at why it remains so relevant for us today.

Even if people cannot attend a tour stop or do not have collections to donate, people can still get involved. The Museum has developed 20 actions that anyone, anywhere can take to help preserve Holocaust memory and apply its lessons today. Visit ushmm.org/neveragain to see how you can participate. You can also see highlights from the previous tour stops and the National Tribute to Holocaust Survivors and World War II veterans.

We will continue to examine issues like the dangers of hate and indifference, the threats of continuing mass violence and genocide and what we can do about them. We want people to understand this history and move from asking "What would I have done?" to "What will I do?"

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Suzy Snyder

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
If Obama thinks pushing out Hagel will be seen as the housecleaning many have eyed for his national security process, he'll be disappointed, says David Rothkopf.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
The decision by the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney to announce the Ferguson grand jury decision at night was dangerous, says Jeff Toobin.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT)
China's influence in Latin America is nothing new. Beijing has a voracious appetite for natural resources and deep pockets, says Frida Ghitis.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 2151 GMT (0551 HKT)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in the capital Tehran on June 14, 2014.
The decision to extend the deadline for talks over Iran's nuclear program doesn't change Tehran's dubious history on the issue, writes Michael Rubin.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1925 GMT (0325 HKT)
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2329 GMT (0729 HKT)
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0134 GMT (0934 HKT)
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0313 GMT (1113 HKT)
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2256 GMT (0656 HKT)
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 2011 GMT (0411 HKT)
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0258 GMT (1058 HKT)
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2141 GMT (0541 HKT)
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT