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Battleship Acts as a Floating Exhibit

December 27, 2007 By:
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The gun barrels of the Battleship "New Jersey"

A new exhibit about the Holocaust on the Battleship New Jersey lets visitors view images of the atrocities that occurred more than 60 years ago in Nazi-occupied Europe and, by its conclusion, challenges viewers to ponder more modern-day genocides that still rage around the world.

The multimedia display, "The Holocaust and Genocide: The Betrayal of Humanity," was put together by the Goodwin Holocaust Museum and Education Center of the Delaware Valley, located in Cherry Hill, N.J.

The 14 panels in the display depict the historic journey that begins in 1933, as Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime seize power in Germany. Each panel then examines a different aspect of the Holocaust and the war years, from persecution to death-camp horrors to liberation.

"We spent a lot of time trying to find visual images that explain all aspects of the Holocaust," said Helen Kirschbaum, education-program coordinator at the museum.

The state of New Jersey has a legal mandate requiring that all students from kindergarten through 12th grade be taught about the Holocaust and other genocides. Kirschbaum said that the display allows students to get some understanding of the past while learning about the consequences of genocide today.

The reality is that students will not be going to Darfur, said Kirschbaum, "but we want them to understand what's going on."

The exhibit had its debut during a preview showing for about 100 guests -- including Holocaust survivors and liberators -- back on Nov. 9, the anniversary of Kristallnacht, "the night of the broken glass." Beginning on that date in 1938, the Nazis ransacked Jewish homes and shops, shattering windows in the business districts, while also setting fire to synagogues throughout Germany.

The exhibit opened to the public on Nov. 10.

The Battleship New Jersey, berthed in the Camden waterfront, saw service during World War II on the Pacific front, said Troy M. Collins, its president and CEO.

"This is a great exhibit for the ship to have here," he said, adding that touring the ship gives visitors a better understanding of the U.S. role in standing up against oppressive governments.

The testimonies of 24 survivors and liberators, now residing in southern New Jersey, are displayed on a television monitor in the middle of the exhibit space.

"As our survivor population becomes smaller, exhibits such as this will continue to tell the story of the Holocaust, so it doesn't become a Jewish story, but a man-versus-man issue," explained Paul B. Winkler, executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education.

The exhibit is "a very important piece in demonstrating liberation and the fight for freedom," he added.

The Holocaust was hardly the last mass killing to occur in history. Since then, other genocides have taken place in the world -- in Rwanda, Somalia and Sudan -- as the last panels of the exhibit remind visitors before they move on to other parts of the ship.

Since some schoolchildren are unable to view the display in person, the experience of seeing it will soon come to them.

On Feb. 19, a videoconference will be available to students, according to Kirschbaum.

The live broadcast will give up to five schools at a time the opportunity to have questions about the exhibit answered by Winkler, along with a Holocaust survivor, a liberator and a second-generation relative of a survivor. At least two such video sessions will be available, but pre-registration is required, noted Kirschbaum.

The Iowa-class USS New Jersey -- also known as BB-62, signifying its status as the 62nd battleship constructed -- launched on Dec. 7, 1942, a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The second battleship to be named after the third state, the USS New Jersey saw service from 1943 until 1991 -- during World War II, Korea, Vietnam and even Beirut. The most decorated battleship in naval history, it now serves as a museum dedicated to the vessel's history.

"The Holocaust and Genocide: The Betrayal of Humanity" is included with all battleship tours through June 15. Next summer, the traveling display will be at the Goodwin Holocaust Museum before a five-month stay at Camden County College. u

To learn more,visit: www. battleshipnewjersey. org.

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