Florida Holocaust Museum
||This article needs to be updated. (January 2012)|
|Location||St. Petersburg, Florida|
The Florida Holocaust Museum is a Holocaust museum located at 55 Fifth Street South in St. Petersburg, Florida. Formerly known as the Holocaust Center, the museum officially changed to its current name in 1999. Founded in 1992, it moved to its current location in 1998. It is one of the largest Holocaust museums in the United States. It was founded by Walter and Edith Lobenberg both of whom were German Jews who escaped persecution in Nazi Germany by immigrating to the United States.
The Florida Holocaust Museum was founded by Walter Lobenberg and his wife Edith Lobenberg in 1992. Both of them had been born in Germany and had escaped Nazi persecution. Walter Lobenberg was born in Wächtersbach, Germany but due to Nazi prosecution of his father and the subsequent difficulties in running the family store, the Lobenberg family moved to Frankfurt in 1936. It was in Frankfurt in 1938 that the Lobenberg Family experience Kristallnacht, with Walter narrowly escaping physical harm and being forced to hide. Eventually through the support of an Aunt already living in the United States Walter Lobenberg was able to immigrate successfully and eventually moved to Chicago. He then served in the United States Army for the duration of the Second World War after being drafted in 1942.
After completing his time in the United States Military, Walter Lobenberg would go on to meet Edith Lobenberg leading to their marriage in 1948.
The Museum was founded by Walter and Edith Lobenberg in 1992. It was founded with the idea of “teaching the members of all races and cultures the inherent worth and dignity of human life in order to prevent future genocides”. The Holocaust Museum was founded as the Holocaust Center in a space that was rented from Jewish Community Center of Pinellas County. It was here that the Holocaust Center would host its first exhibit on, ‘Anne Frank in the World’. This would prove to be a very successful exhibit able to attract 24,000 visitors within the first month. As the Center proved popular it began to run teaching seminars, lectures, and commemorative events in which visitors could participate. Additionally the Center began to connect with the local educational system; schools in an eight county area surrounding Tampa Bay were provided with study guides, teacher training programs and presentations by Center staff and Holocaust survivors.
By 1996 the Holocaust Center had grown to such a point that a larger space was needed and thus the Board of Directors voted to buy and renovate a new building for the Museum. This new building, a former bank, was 27,000 square feet in comparison to the 4000 square feet in the previous space. The building was to be renovated by 1998. The Architect chosen for this task was the Israeli-born Nick Benjacob. He would produce the distinctive shape of the new building which prominently featured triangles, explaining that “The era of World War II is so depressing that I did not want to do anything with either circles or squares, because they are whole shapes. I wanted a broken shape. A triangle is a suppressing shape, it is a hard shape, and I wanted to design a feeling for the visitors before they even entered the museum".
This move was completed on time in 1998, and in January 1999, the Holocaust Center changed its name officially to the Florida Holocaust Museum (its present name). In this new building the Florida Holocaust Museum has continued its mission of human rights awareness and holocaust awareness. The new building was able to welcome 65,000 visitors in its first year. Additionally the extra space in the new building has allowed for the expansion of the museum’s library which includes both audio and visual materials. The current building features three floors with the permanent exhibit as well as archives being located on the first floor, and temporary galleries on the second and third floor.
The permanent collection of the Florida Holocaust Museum is housed on the first floor in an exhibit titled: “History, Heritage, and Hope”. This exhibit features various artifacts from the period and takes the form of a self-guided audio tour through the history of the Holocaust beginning with the history of antisemitism and life before World War II, followed by the rise of Hitler and the Nazis and anti-Jewish legislation. The history of other victim groups, ghettoes and rescue are shown as well. The exhibition culminates with sections about concentration camps and killing centers and a boxcar that was used during the Holocaust. The final area presented is ‘Lessons for Today’ where visitors learn about other genocides and acts of hatred occurring today. The centerpiece of the permanent collection is an actual box car (from Gdynia, Poland) that transported victims of the Nazi regime to the concentration camps. It rests upon original track from the Treblinka Killing Center as a silent tribute to those who perished in the Holocaust.
On the second and third floors of the building temporary exhibits are hosted with topics varying from artistic interpretations of the events of the Holocaust to informative exhibits which illuminate related topics, such as the Nuremberg Trials. The third floor also features a large open gallery in which lectures, presentations and events are held as well.
The Florida Holocaust Museum additionally runs several programs of outreach within the community with the aim of continuing their mission of raising awareness of human rights.
As part of its education program, teachers can borrow Teaching Trunks with material for teaching about the Holocaust for free. These trunks are specialized for different age groups and contain a wide variety of literature and material designed to convey pertinent information to students. The material inside is specialized for various ages from elementary-level students to high school students.
The Florida Holocaust Museum in addition to its Teaching Trunks Program participates in the local educational process. The Museum frequently sends speakers to schools as well as brings classes to the museum.
The Florida Holocaust Museum also runs volunteer programs where everyone from students to the elderly are able to assist in the educational process. The museum is one of many organizations worldwide where young Austrians can serve their Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service.