Such a small museum! But packed with important artifacts, knowledge, and research on the Holocaust. A must-see stop for anyone visiting Collier County.
|We set out early again on Wednesday on our way to Naples, Florida, the home of the Holocaust Museum and Education Center of Southwest Florida. The unique origin of the Museum was a local middle school classroom exhibit created by students and teachers studying the Holocaust. In 2001, the exhibit was transformed into a museum and educational center. The museum reaches 17,000 students each year, and on Wednesday, we made that number 17,010.00, plus five teachers. Coming along on the trip across the state were Holocaust survivors Sam Harris, Peter Feigl, and Aranka Siegel.
When we arrived at the museum everyone there was waiting for us! The museum’s education director, Amy Snyder, welcomed us into the classroom and told us about the museum’s ongoing research that began with a box of nearly discarded papers. Those papers unveiled a story about the Holocaust that we might not have known, and Amy inspired the historian in all of us.
Survivor Anatole Kurdsjuk engaged us for an hour, telling us of his family’s struggles during the birth of Communism in the Soviet Union, the Stalinist purges of the 1920’s and Nazi occupation and imprisonment. His book The Long Walk Home delivers his personal viewpoint on some of the most troubling times of the twentieth century. We invited Mr. Kurdsjuk to lunch with us at the Naples Beach and Resort Club, and it was there that the students were able to say that they dipped a toe in both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico within 24 hours.
Heading back East, our bus made a stop on the Seminole Museum where students were treated to a presentation on the history of the Seminole Indian of Florida – we noted some parallels to the stories of the Holocaust, and reflected on this as we went through the exhibits. The Museum is named Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki meaning “place to learn.” Indeed, all of South Florida was Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki for our group.
Upon return, our group met with Alan Newman who was born in Strzemieszyce, Poland. Alan was an only child, and lost both his parents in the Nazi Holocaust.
That evening, the group took in some respite aboard the beautiful yacht, The Bottom Line. We were hosts of the yacht’s owner, Bill Mahoney of Mahoney & Associates, and a great friend of Holland & Knight. We stopped for dinner, and returned to the Yacht for a ride home and dessert. What a restful and beautiful experiences after a fulfilling day of learning and sharing.
Tomorrow would be a VERY big day for us – and we reluctantly left the splendor of The Bottom Line. This task was made easier by the beauty of our home for the week, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina.