Cincinnati is a great place to visit. It is a city teeming with new business, craftsmanship, unique restaurants, and a myriad of opportunities to embrace the arts and culture of the area. Cincinnati also strikes me as a city that values preserving history and connecting today’s population with yesterday’s heritage. Collectively, we choose to celebrate life and progress. We have the Freedom Center to honor the work and the memory of the Underground Railroad. Now we also share a powerful exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center teaching on the Holocaust and how a society of people was almost lost at the hand of evil, yet in many instances have managed to rebuild and thrive. It is an honorable memorial to the lives lost and carries a powerful message of hope, social responsibility, and accountability.
January 27th, the Cincinnati Museum Center opened the Nancy and David Wolf Holocaust and Humanity Center. What better place to house an exhibit of this kind than in a setting that was an active train terminal during the same period? Thankfully, the trains reaching Union Terminal were not a tool of mass destruction, but rather the mode to reach dreams. They led to a place that many who were fleeing the Nazi regime would find new life and a way to continue building their family’s legacy. The Nancy and David Wolf Holocaust and Humanity Center shows history as much as it ‘tells’ history. It is an exhibit that personalizes the journey of the individuals in the Jewish community through the progression of Hitler’s “Final Solution.” This experience is compassionately presented while still conveying the gravity of the history.
In my opinion, true comprehension of the Holocaust lies in humanizing every aspect that the Nazi party attempted to dehumanize. I’m not sure that any one person can ever grasp the magnitude of destruction that was inflicted through the genocide from 1941-1945. Yet when you begin to learn about the individuals who endured the atrocities, you begin to see them not as numbers or statistics, but as people. They were people the same as you and me, striving to raise families; people honoring their ancestry and heritage; people who believed that being upstanding and pious was enough to secure a good life.
When you enter the Nancy and David Wolf Holocaust and Humanity Center, you begin your journey into the center with a video sharing a bit of history that shows the relevance of Union Terminal and Cincinnati to certain Holocaust survivors. You hear of people that sought to fight to protect human life. You learn of survivors and their connection to the Cincinnati area. You are challenged to reflect on how this information can be relevant to you and your choices today.
After the initial video you continue to an exhibit abundant with artifacts and information that reflect the progression of the Anti-Semitism and calculated political movements that began to forever alter the lives of everyone in Germany, Poland, and surrounding areas. In a gentle way, the exhibit begins to show that total annihilation was the Nazi regime’s ambition for the Jewish population. An ambition that was not only for the German and Polish Jews; not only for the European Jews; but one designed to completely eradicate Judaism as a culture and a people.
Brimming with information and artifacts, every aspect of the Holocaust exhibit is meticulously implemented. All of which are presented with interactive videos and displays that are designed to stimulate engagement, introspection, and conversation. The people who designed this exhibit managed to create a learning space that communicates a substantial amount of information in a way that remains safe and suitable for students.
During our visit, I witnessed a young girl explaining perspectives from her Holocaust studies with her mother. It was evident that the information the daughter was sharing, her mother had never heard. The exhibit sparked dialogue and engaged families to reflect deeper on how the atrocities developed. How the government was able to attempt extermination of an entire group of people. That same day, I saw a young boy wearing noise cancelling headphones, slowly absorb each display. Quickly, he realized that several displays were interactive (before I ever noticed) and it drew him into the material in a new way. I saw stories that others intended to be lost, take hold of new hearts.
The Nancy and David Wolf Holocaust and Humanity Center celebrates the lives that were spared. It honors the legacies that have since been built. The Center inspires its attendees to recognize the greatness within themselves; to identify the role we all share in assuring that this type of treatment toward our fellow man be eradicated. I don’t want to share excessive details and take away from the experience. Just know that if you do decide to make a visit, you will walk away with information and a renewed depth of understanding and inspiration.