Holocaust and Heroism Memorial House

In order to appreciate the aliyah phenomenon, we need reference points. Ariel, rich in humanity and history, provides a number of points-of-reference through which we can further our understanding and perspective. Jerry and Sylvia Dortz describe one such place in Ariel…   

In 1933, Adolph Hitler rose to power in Germany and established a racist regime in which Jews were deemed to be “untermenschen” (sub-humans), not part of the human race. 

In 1939 Hitler began implementing his “final solution” to annihilate the Jewish people.  His forces concentrated the Jews in ghettos and established labor, concentration, and extermination camps to which the Jews were sent.  Documents uncovered after the war show that Hitler’s aim was to exterminate every Jew in the world.  During the six years of the war 6,000,000 Jews including 1,500,000 children were murdered by the Nazis; one-third of the Jewish population of the world. 

In Ariel, at 44 Derech HaNachshonim, Irena and Yaakov (Kuba) Wodzeslawske, both Holocaust survivors, founded the Holocaust and Heroism Memorial House in 2003.  “My wife and I are aware of the responsibilities of our work because as long as time passes there will be less people who are witnesses to what happened.  We will never forget the memories of the faces of the people who were walking to their death who called to the ones who would survive to revenge their blood.  We know that as survivors we will forever bear witness to what was done to our people.  We realize that we were left alive in order to tell what took place.”   This is a unique memorial site in Ariel, located in their private home.  Memorial House covers 4 of the 6 floors of the Wodzeslawske’s home, and functions as a commemorative shrine and a testimony to the horrors of the past. 

There are several galleries in the house:

Bronze sculptures by Shmuel Vilenberg, a survivor of Treblinka, are arranged in the Sculpture Gallery.  These sculptures of the figures encountered while in the camp express his memories and nightmares. 

The Photo Gallery contains rare photographs that track the chronological events of the Holocaust era, from the invasion of Poland, to deportation, life and death in the ghettos, exile to the extermination camps in cattle cars, the selection process, and the mass extermination that took place.

The Personal Belongings Gallery contains rare items, including a prisoner’s jacket from Auschwitz, a food bowl from Treblinka, a yellow Jude star from Germany, a white ribbon with a yellow star of David which Polish Jews wore as an armband, and metal buttons worn by the Jewish ghetto policemen on their caps, a page from a Torah that was desecrated and subsequently purchased by Jews; an old Sidur Mahzor from the 19th century that was found scattered in the rubbish in Poland; rare stamps depicting Hitler’s image and many other items.

The Letters and Postcards Gallery is a rare and unique collection of over 350 postcards and letters that were mailed from the work camps and ghettos by Jews and are accompanied by translations in Hebrew. 

The Lecture Hall seats 100 and is outfitted with audio-visual equipment and a library.  After a tour of the Memorial House, organized groups gather here to listen to the testimonies of the survivor couple.

The Holocaust was the deliberate and systematic attempt to exterminate the entire Jewish people.  Modern attempts to diminish or deny this tragedy, unique in its scale, desecrate the memory of its millions of victims.   Only by remembering, documenting and commemorating the Holocaust can we insure that nothing like it will ever happen again. 

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