CREVE COEUR, Mo. – After two years, the $25 million St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum opened to the public Wednesday morning in Creve Coeur.
A ribbon cutting, speeches and the hanging of the mezuzah are a constant reminder that god is watching over … the only museum of its kind in the state.
“We can make the world a place where antisemitism, bigotry and hatred are all eliminated,” said Cheryle Atkin, daughter of the museum’s namesake, Gloria Kaplan Feldman.
Inside the exhibits, a shoe, a prisoner uniform, and a suitcase on display drive home the normalcy of the Jewish people’s everyday lives and their items, before the unthinkable happened.
Gittel Berger survived the holocaust after fleeing Germany, living in ghettos in Shanghai before her family finally came to St. Louis in 1947.
Her family’s documents and photos on display.
“It hurts. I miss them. You always miss them and what my life could have been like if they would have lived. It’s just human feelings,” Berger said. “But I’m so pleased, I didn’t know it was going to be on display like this, so it was powerful.”
In another room, Holocaust survivor David Kaplan’s accordion, a symbol of perseverance.
“I dragged it all the way from Berlin, I should have brought money instead of the accordion,” Kaplan said. “We had to go under the wires at night and we made it to the American zone and when we came, they gave us chocolate milk. We thought we died. I mean, it was great.”
The phrase “never forget” has never held such significance. The rise in growing antisemitism over the last five years has recently hit a boiling point.
“The antisemitism that we see today is pulling on very historic tropes and so it’s really making sure we recognize those tropes; we understand the depth of antisemitism and the dangers of antisemitism,” Helen Turner, the museum’s director of education and interpretation, said.
You can’t fix the past or current hatred, but what you can do is educate yourself and empower the next generation.
The best way to do that is not only by looking at the exhibits and taking it them in but also by listening to the stories of the survivors. In turn you’re doing what the Jewish people call a mitzvah or a good deed.
The museum will be open Wednesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Additional information, including ticket sales, can be found on the museum’s website.