Brooklyn’s first Holocaust Museum created by 9/11 Memorial Museum designer
A designer of the National September 11th Memorial & Museum is gathering chilling historical artifacts for Brooklyn’s first Holocaust museum.
David Layman, who co-created the exhibits in the controversial underground 9/11 museum, is laying out what’s going inside The Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center on 50th Street, expected to open next spring.
“Our design approach is telling the story through the eyes of the people themselves. The Brooklyn community is featured prominently,” Layman said. “The artifacts, photos, and papers are primarily from Borough Park.”
The museum will focus on Orthodox Jewish life before, during, and after the massacre - the first Holocaust museum with that emphasis. About 9,000 Holocaust survivors live in Kings County, the highest count outside of Israel.
Layman said it made sense for him to work on the Holocaust project after spending years detailing New Yorkers’ tragic tales for the 9/11 museum.
“Both stories are very similar,” he said. “They are both events that changed humanity forever.”
The four-story center is comprised of a museum, research library, and an interview room where the elderly can record their Nazi-era horror stories.
Officials are currently asking city families whose relatives died in the war or survived it to donate old photographs and paperwork.
Books, Torahs, and religious clothes such as prayer shawls, used during the Holocaust are also being collected.
“Jewish children in Brooklyn aren’t getting much exposure to the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Sholom Friedmann, the center’s director. “A museum in such a Jewish heavy area makes sense.”
The importance of victims’ faith is another central theme. Rabbinical rulings made during the 1940’s - in the midst of death and torture - will be on display including one which allowed Jews trapped in the Nazi ghettos to eat non-kosher food. “The Orthodox were singled out. They were more noticeably Jewish,” said Friedmann, who has been collecting items survivors and their familes saved from the Holocaust.
An elderly Washington Heights woman recently gave Friedmann her German visa from January 1939 showing how she was one of the last Jews to escape the country.
The Gold family from Crown Heights are in talks to have their parents’ marriage certificate on display. It was signed at a displacement camp in Landsberg, Germany in November 1945 - a few months after the Nazis surrendered power.
“They were the first couple to be married at that deportation camp,” said Norman Gold, 55, about his mom Esther and dad Jack.
“These facts need to be documented, so that there is no question that this war really happened,” Gold said. “It is critical that the next generation is brought up knowing about this.”