When the Anti-Defamation League announced on Tuesday that anti-Semitic assaults had doubled in the U.S. from 2017 to 2018, the news was shocking but, sadly, not entirely surprising: a shooting left one dead at a California synagogue last Sunday, just days before Thursday’s observance of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
One effect of that sobering shift is being felt in New York City at a museum located a 10-minute walk from the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Its full name declares it “The Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust” and it was built with six sides to represent the six million Jewish people who died in the Holocaust. Even so, when it opened in 1997, its founders decided to put an emphasis on Jewish heritage in order to differentiate it from the recently opened the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. But in the last year, the museum’s board has considered modifying its name, in order to give the Holocaust more prominent placement.
While the museum hasn’t officially changed its name yet, its new emphasis is already clear: starting May 8, it will host the largest-ever traveling exhibit on Auschwitz, Nazi Germany’s biggest killing center. The exhibition Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away opens on the anniversary of the 1945 surrender of Nazi Germany in World War II. It features more than 600 original objects, including major loans from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum that had never been seen outside of Poland before the exhibition firm Musealia first produced the show in Madrid from December 2017 to February 2019.
Though it was just one of the half-dozen Nazi camps that scholars identify as “killing centers,” there’s a reason Auschwitz is the focus of this new phase of the museum’s life.