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Home News Montreal Holocaust Museum; Is it Suitable for Children?

Montreal Holocaust Museum; Is it Suitable for Children?

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The year 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and its atrocities. Among these atrocities was the genocide of millions at Nazi concentration camps (i.e. Auschwitz). Perhaps this is a fitting time to visit the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Museum (MHM) in the Cote des Neiges district. But is the MHM a suitable place to take young children?


“We generally do not recommend children under age 12 visit here,” explains Alice Herscovitch, Executive Director of the MHM. “But this is not a museum of horrors; In terms of graphic scenes, many Hollywood movies are much more violent than is the MHM. We often accommodate school group visits from grade six and up.”


The Holocaust was a very dark period in history perpetrated in Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. Many Jews living in German-occupied Europe were persecuted, pushed into walled-off ghettos, had their property confiscated, were pressed into being forced laborers, were rounded up and put into cattle cars on their way to camps such as Auschwitz where millions of them ultimately died and were cremated. Jews were not the only victims, but it was the Jewish community in Montreal which built the MHM, housed within the Montreal Holocaust Memorian Centre..


Only by trying to understand how those atrocities could have happened can we possibly learn how to prevent history from repeating itself. Young people are the principal audience that needs to see and experience the MHM message, but many parents deliberately stay away for fear that the museum might frighten their children.


Herscovitch qualifies her earlier remark to mention that, “families often visit with children under age 12. Parents are invariably the best judges as to the maturity of their children. And there are ways to make museum age-appropriate; some exhibits are deliberately put at eye level for adults where it is harder for children to see them. Families can also choose what to look at. Some adults, for instance, choose not want to look at the Auschwitz videos.”


Much of the exposition deals with the escalation of prejudice, intolerance, and antisemitism prior to and during World War II. But the MHM also celebrates many aspects of Jewish life prior to the Holocaust and underlines the resilience of these populations. Despite harsh conditions and near starvation imposed by the Nazis, some Jewish ghettos had vibrant cultural life, including their own symphony orchestras. Couples still celebrated marriage in those bleak times. There are many tales of tremendous heroism and bravery.


Most of the main Nazi concentration camps were located in what is now Poland and were liberated by the advancing Soviet Red Army shortly before Germany surrendered in May, 1945. A few lesser camps located in Holland and France were liberated by British and Canadian soldiers. Faced with the physical evidence of what these camps were about, the world was shocked at the extent of Nazi horrors.


While our country was an important player on the Allied side in World War II,“Canada did not play such a noble role during the Holocaust, closing its borders to Jewish refugees who were desperately trying to escape the horrors of Nazi Germany,” Herscovitch notes. “Various groups petitioned the Canadian government to 'keep these Jews out' and only about 500 were allowed in. These refugees were considered 'enemy aliens' and kept in Prisoner of War (POW) camps.”


After World War II, Canada did open its doors to refugees and about 9,000 Holocaust survivors settled in Montreal. Some of them are still alive today and a few volunteer to come out on special occasions. and address MHM visitors. A few of them are now over 100 years old, but others are younger than 80. We have also video-recorded many of their testimonies.”


Herscovitch mentions that the MHM has about 400 items on display over about 5,000 sq feet of floor space. Almost all of which have a Montreal connection and it is chilling to see a sign from near Montreal in the 1930s warning Jews to “get out while the going is good,' a stark reminder that blatant antisemitism was not limited to Nazi Germany.


The exhibits include touch screens as the museum becomes increasingly interactive. Many people take about 90 minutes to see the MHM. For those who want more information, there are free apps for iPads and Android devices as well as some 150 YouTube videos.


The MHM is fully accessible for people in wheelchairs and can also accommodate the hearing-impaired. Some visitors are surprised to hear that handicapped people were among the targets of the Nazis as well as Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses, Russian prisoners, etc.


When we caught up with Herscovitch, she was just back from Armenia, a country on the Black Sea, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1915 genocide there and in Turkey. The MHM is now working with the Armenian, Cambodian, and Rwandan communities to put the spotlight on other genocides.


“Our motto is 'never again,' but there have been other genocides since and will be more,” Herscovitch says. But the best chance for reducing the risk of another similar horrific event is through education. “It is important that children learn the consequences of hate and discrimination. It is also important that they learn about the role of active citizenship.”


The MHM is open Sunday & Friday from 10AM—4PM; Mon., Tues, Thurs. 10AM—5PM;

Wed. 10AM—9PM; & Saturdays closed. Adult admission fees are $8, Students/seniors /children: $5


Montreal Holocaust Memorial Museum

5151, ch. de la Côte-Ste-Catherine

(Cummings House), (metro Côte-Ste-Catherine)

H3W 1M6 / 514.345.2605

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

www.mhmc.ca



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Last Updated on Sunday, 24 May 2015 15:04  

 

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