Phoenix Holocaust exhibit tells stories of survival

Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 8:28 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — At 14 years old, the Nazis put Rise Stillman and her family on a train to die. “I can’t imagine how anyone would have the heart to take a small child; a child who committed no crimes, innocent, and gas them,” Stillman said.

Eight decades later, she still remembers her first day at the Auschwitz concentration camp. “What is that fire?” she recalls asking after a train ride that lasted two days with no food and water. “And this lady said, ‘It is a crematorium.’ I had never heard of a crematorium.” She said the woman told her that is where they are going to burn her family.

Stillman is a Holocaust survivor and her story, no matter how horrific, is vital. “Our generation is dying out,” she said. “There are fewer and fewer witnesses.”

The Arizona Jewish Historical Society documented Rise’s story and others. “This exhibit incorporates a lot of different things,” Executive Director Lawrence Bell said as he moved through the multi-room exhibit called Stories of Survival.

It tells the atrocities of the Holocaust through the eyes of people who lived it. Bell said you will find traditional museum items like photographs, paintings and articles, but with an added emphasis on technology.

Guests can interact with a Holocaust survivor about what he witnessed. A five-foot-tall video screen displays Oskar Knoblauch. Visitors can ask him a variety of questions that he answered during hours of recording in this “hologram,” Bell said. “It’s immersive and I think it really creates an emotional type of experience that you don’t get otherwise,” he added.

Bell said this approach is a good way to reach younger people, some of whom are barely aware of the Holocaust and the evil it represents. He hopes people come here to listen and learn. Rise agrees. She said the crimes of the past must never be forgotten or repeated.

She was eventually liberated after the war, escaping extermination by the Nazis. But as for her family, including her mother, father and two younger siblings, they were not so lucky. “Nobody came home,” she said.

She swore after the world saw the unfathomable carnage of the holocaust it would surely change. “There will never be another war, there will never be hatred, there will never be hatred and bigotry again,” she lamented.

That, of course, did not happen. Bigotry and religious persecution still exist, something Stories of Survival attempts to change, one story at a time.

Tap/click here to learn more about the new Holocaust education center.

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