Keeping The Memory Alive
New Holocaust Memorial Center embraces first student visitors.
hough not yet open to the general public,
the Holocaust Memorial Center welcomed
about 20 students from Northville High
School Feb. 1 for the first official tour of its
new Farmington Hills facility. The HMC is scheduled
to open to the public next month.
Ironically, the students were from a third-year
German language class.
"The textbook we are using had a chapter that
included some parts of Hider's speeches to show the
kids how very plain, ordinary little words they already
had in their vocabulary could be used in such a nefari-
ous way," said Karen Motz, a Geman III teacher for
seven years. "Last year, some of the kids who are really
into the history said, 'Why don't we go? We heard that
there was a museum about the Holocaust.
Why don't we go?'"
After visiting the old HMC in West
Bloomfield in the fall, Motz made the neces-
"I like the fact that it's interdisciplinary,"
she said. "It's about language and linguistics and histo-
ry, and even, to some degree, psychology and sociology,
how Hitler could mobilize the way he did."
After taking a two-hour tour — which included a
talk with a Holocaust survivor, three short films and
graphic video images — 15-year-old Matt Fleming
paused at the memorial flame and black granite wall
listing the number and origin of Jews who died in the
"It's really overwhelming and really humbling," said
Fleming, a sophomore. "There's really no area that the
Germans didn't kill innocent people; it's just so terrible
to think about it. So many Jews were such hard-work-
ing, hardcore Germans who supported the country and
loved it, and they were just killed because of their reli-
"This [tour] is more in your face," said Fleming, who
has visited the U.S. Holocaust Museum in
Washington, D.C. "Washington is text-based. They
did have one little thing where they set up a room kind
of like a ghetto. But this really hits home because all
around there's just pictures of the terror and pain and it
really shows you everything."
Two days earlier, the HMC allowed 150 teens attend-
ing a Central Region United Synagogue Youth week-
end here to have an abbreviated one-hour tour.
They split into four groups in tight formation, 15
minutes apart. Many of the exhibits still were unfin-
ished, but those in place were powerful
enough to make the kids overlook the scaf-
folding, sawhorses and construction materi-
als in view.
As they entered the area known as the
Abyss in the Holocaust portion of the muse-
um, where seven video screens show what allied troops
witnessed during the liberation of concentration
camps, an almost imperceptible "Oh my God" was
heard from some.
"I've been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington,
and I've been to Yad Vashem [hi Israel]," said Rachel
Schneider, 14, of Cincinnati. "It was very hard for me
at both of them and it was very hard for me at this
part. I had to look down."
Melissa Reiser, 16, of Cincinnati, said, "I think it is
amazing what people are capable of The Abyss was
really graphic and it's just so unimaginable."
Near the tour's end, Elana Barkowitz, 16, of
Pittsburgh said, "It was an amazing experience.
Everybody should have a chance to see this."
From the docent's standpoint, this first tour went
well, but a little too quickly.
"There's always too much here and you want to say
more, but I think the most important thing is that they
learned something," said docent Robin Sessel of
Farmington Hills. "Whether they already had a course
in the Holocaust or not, they always pick up some-
"It's an amazing facility, but we have to learn where
to turn right and where to turn left," said docent
Donna Sklar of Farmington Hills.
"Each of us does our own tour. I like to plant certain
things and carry out a certain theme, and my visual
cues are in different places now But there are so many
things to see and talk about.
"The kids were very emotional and very moved," she
said. "It's a different tour when you give it to Jewish
kids. They shake their heads and say, 'Yeah,' because
they've heard about it For other kids, it's like, 'Wow, I
The Jewish News will continue to feature stories on
different aspects of the HMC in the weeks leading up to
the official opening, slated for March.
For information on visiting the Holocaust
Memorial Center or to schedule a group tour, call
Docent Donna Sklar with Rachel Schneider, 14, of Cincinnati, Liz Badt, 18, of Kalamazoo, Elana Barkowitz, 16, of Pittsburgh and Hannah Green, 16, of Kalamazoo.