Nestled between famed American tourist attractions like The Sixth Floor Museum and interesting downtown activities, like the Dallas World Aquarium, the Dallas Holocaust Museum is an essential West End location that focuses on education rather than the urge to become a destination spot for those visiting DFW. Remembering the Holocaust and celebrating the lives of those who died in concentration camps, as well as every Holocaust survivor is the main goal of the museum. Youth outreach is another big part of its mission: “The Dallas Holocaust Museum is dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust, and to teaching the moral and ethical response to prejudice, hatred and indifference for the benefit of all humanity.” Historically speaking, youth outreach is one of the most powerful weapons on either side of intolerance, racism and bigotry.
Why Continue to Teach About the Holocaust?
Being a teenager in 2016 isn’t easy—attempting to grow into a thoughtful and compassionate person in this day and age seems genuinely difficult. The world is so much more and so much less connected all at the same time; it’s become a relatively easy place to get lost. For a teenager in 2016 to find a connection between themselves and a Holocaust survivor is challenging not only because it’s so hard to understand that kind of suffering but because fewer and fewer survivors are alive today. For decades, American teenagers met a Holocaust survivor when they studied WWII—usually the survivor would come and speak to the classroom. However it happened, seeing a real person explain to them what it was like to live through those circumstances was often a life-altering experience and gave them more insight into the Holocaust than any history book ever would.
Why is the Story of Yisrael Kristal Important for Young Adults?
When Yisrael Kristal, the now-famous Polish confectioner was a teenager, his widower father was drafted to fight in the First World War. Yisrael kept up the family farm to live from and later he and his father moved to Lodz and opened a candy shop. Within a few months of Germany invading Poland in 1939, Kristal’s family, which by then included his wife and two children, was forced to relocate again—this time to the Lodz Ghetto with the rest of the Jewish population in the city. And four years later, his family would be relocated for a final time—to Auschwitz—where his wife, children and father would all perish. Mr. Kristal was the only member of his extended family to survive the war and the Nazi genocide.
The Oldest Man in the World is a Holocaust Survivor!
Sadly, Mr. Kristal’s tragic tale is not unique. This story played out millions of times during the Holocaust as families were ripped apart, forced to watch their loved ones die in front of them or, perhaps worse, to live never knowing what happened to one another at all. Kristal escaped death in the Auschwitz concentration camp and built a new life in Israel. His story was hardly different from other survivors, but that changed somewhat in 2014 when the (then) 110-year-old Kristal become the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor. And, this past Friday, at the age of 112 years and 178 days, Yisrael Kristal was declared the oldest man in the world. To be named the oldest man alive in a world where some people still deny the huge atrocities that shifted and shaped his entire life is certainly bittersweet and more than historical. With the help of places like the Dallas Holocaust Museum, survivors and the children and grandchildren of survivors will hopefully continue to share their stories with generations to come.
In Remembrance of Every Victim & Survivor, Let Us Not Make the Same Mistakes
In the Garden of Remembrance at The Dallas Holocaust Museum, the sculpture “Coming Together” (conceived, designed and constructed by local high school students), embodies what students felt happened to the Jewish people during the Holocaust—this idea is exhibited by what occurs to the sculpture when it rains. Austin Ablon, one of the three students who designed and built the piece, describes the exhibition in the following way: “Raindrops, interrupted from their free fall paths, are collected and guided down the path until they all fall into the center star of David that sits bellow. In that action, they ‘come together’ as one. We believe that this idea represents what happened to the Jewish people during the Holocaust…. Their daily lives were interrupted, they were gathered together and forced into trains, and then into concentration camps. But after all of that happened, even though they had suffered horribly, the survivors came together as the Jewish people, stronger and united—just like the raindrops [turn into a full body of water].”
Although not directly affiliated with the Holocaust, George Santayana’s most famous aphorism is often cited when making the case for education being the number one weapon against future atrocities: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” An Auschwitz survivor being the oldest man alive is miraculous, historical and will hopefully help future generations to remember a not-so-long-ago past that the human race should desperately attempt not to repeat.