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Education efforts continue at Union Station's Auschwitz exhibit, beyond

Auschwitz Exhibition
Posted at 5:00 AM, Oct 27, 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City has drawn in thousands of visitors to see the Auschwitz exhibit at Union Station. Holocaust education remains front and center here at home, and across the country.

More than 240,000 tickets have been sold, drawing in all 50 states, but one state, and the mission of the exhibit, is in the news.

An administrator in Southlake, Texas, recently said teaching the Holocaust should also offer "opposing views." That set off alarm bells nationwide, and here at home.

"Anytime we hear words about an alternate perspective or a different perspective, those are the words, the language used by revisionists and deniers and in Holocaust education, there are truths and facts," Jessica Rockhold, the executive director of the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education said. "An effort to mitigate it or to suggest that it didn't happen on the scale that it had happened, it's denial and it's an affront to every person who experienced it."

That includes people like Fern Schumer Chapman, a Chicago-based author.

"My mother actually came from a very small town in Germany, it had 2000 people and two Jewish families, it was one of the first towns to see Nazi activity," Chapman said.

Her grandparents sent her mother to the United States, offering an escape from the Nazi’s.

"She was actually part of a an unknown program, organized by Lutherans, Quakers and Jewish groups that brought out 10 children at a time on cruise ships and say 100 a year between 1934 and 1945 and ultimately saved about 1400 kids," Chapman said. "These people are known as the One Thousand Children and my mother is one."

The school district in Texas recently released a statement that said it "recognizes there are not two sides of the Holocaust."

Schumer Champan says revisionism of any kind, is traumatic for families like hers.

"I felt like my experience had been invalidated, we had suffered and struggled with our mother, for decades, my mother had to live through this nightmare," she said.

That makes education efforts that much more urgent.

"Neither Kansas or Missouri have a mandate, and so this is a subject that is taught, because the school districts perceive it as important and individual teachers perceive it as important, and providing that resource support and that content support is a primary tenant of what we do," Rockhold says.

At Union Station, immersive education continues for a few more months.

"One of the really powerful components of this is that it makes people confront artifacts and testimony and evidence that was in most cases were gathered by the Nazis themselves," Rockhold said. "This is irrefutable evidence of the fact of the crime."

It is crime that is less than a century old, but still offers lessons in the classroom and in Union Station's main exhibition hall.

Auschwitz: Not Long Ago, Not Far Away remains open through Jan. 30, with limited tickets available. No bags of any kind are allowed, and face masks are required as the exhibit continues to follow city guidelines.