Readers Write: Auschwitz: Not Long Ago. Not Far Away

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After hearing much about the traveling exhibit, “Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away,” my family and I went to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.

My grandfather– a retired history teacher and expert on World War II and the Holocaust– organized a night for us to experience the display ourselves.

Walking through the first dark hallway of the exhibit, an eerie feeling immediately rushed through my body. We were led into a large room split up by several panels covered in maps, propaganda, articles, texts, etc., showcased chronologically to tell the story of Nazi domination and the origins of Auschwitz.

I found myself pausing frequently at various panels, trying to absorb as much new information as possible, translating German newspaper clippings, analyzing remaining pottery, utensils and creases in leftover uniforms and watching other visitors do the same. While doing the latter, I witnessed spouses clutch each other tightly as a graphic photograph appeared around the corner and heard deep sighs as people read excerpts from writers in the camp.

After slowly walking through the exhibit, my family and I gathered in the lobby to leave, the rain clouds still flooding above us. I turned one last time to thank the staff at the museum and caught a final glance at the exhibit’s name. At the moment, I realized the weight that accompanied its subtitle and also my own visit.

Not long ago. Not far away.

It seems like a fairly simple concept to grasp. Yet taking into context today’s climate and parallels, the seemingly plain six-word phrase morphs into an entity with a concerning amount of truth.

Not long ago, President Trump remarked that Jews who support Democrats show “great disloyalty.” Trump’s message was in conjunction with his decision to block two Democratic congresswoman from visiting Israel after they openly criticized some of that nation’s policies. Critics made the point that Trump’s words veered toward a politicization of anti-Semitism.

Although debates about Trump’s allusion to dual loyalty are still aloft, his focus on the Jewish community seemed to contradict the nation he represents, a democracy where all political opinions and actions are valued and respected.

While it is immoral for Trump to criticize a group that does not agree with him, it is far more hurtful and doubtful when that particular group is marked with historical judgment and resulting tragedy.

More recently, CNN reported that the 2019 U.S. hate crime rate spiked to 26%– the highest it has been since 16 years ago.

The local and national news is also becoming increasingly flooded with events of anti-semitic crimes. Just last month, a man ambushed a rabbi’s home in Monsey, N.Y., leaving stabbed and wounded. In Jersey City, N.J., five people were killed after a shooting outside a kosher market.

When considering these recent events, the phrase comes back to mind.

Not long ago. Not far away.

Nearly 80 years since Auschwitz there has been a dramatic increase of Antisemitism around the globe, in the U.S. and on Long Island. To combat this, the Blank papers reported on significant rallies on North Shore against hate groups.

This vigilance for human rights is encouraging. It is hard for an outsider, one who has not been deeply taught or affected to believe the past events transpired. Even for people who are involved, have been well taught and were affected, have trouble putting the pieces together as to how places like Auschwitz existed.

The reason why exhibits continue to open and travel is to educate those who would otherwise not know.

The only way to avoid repeating a tragedy is to learn of it, learn from it and carry it with you.

When ignorance seems to remain present around a historical issue, it is necessary to spread, preach and scream awareness to remaining groups who fail at understanding. With the uproar in such violent incidents, action needs to be more urgent, as numbness to these frequent events is foreseeable.

Over seventy thousand people have visited the Auschwitz exhibit in New York City. The museum planned to close at the beginning of 2020 but is now extending its deadline after an unexpected increase in attendance. It will officially close on August 30.

To learn more about the Auschwitz exhibit or the Museum of Jewish Heritage, visit https://mjhnyc.org/exhibitions/auschwitz/.

Emily Levine
Port Washington

Emily is a Schreiber High School senior. She is currently working with UJA’s Witness Project regarding Holocaust remembrance projects.

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