Newly expanded Naples Holocaust Museum to open Saturday

Reporter: Chris Cifatte Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

On Saturday, the Holocaust Museum in North Naples will reopen after a five-month expansion. This isn’t simply bringing history alive, rather it’s for the history showcased at the museum to live in the viewer’s conscience.

The stories in that museum are rooted in a horrific and atrocious time.

“Well, both of my parents were born in Poland,” said Stuart Mest, a man whose parents survived the Holocaust. “My father was selected to continue to be a slave laborer.”

Stories told by local people with direct ties to the Holocaust fill the museum.

“And they were then placed in the lodge getup where he worked as a slave laborer in a leather factory,” said Mest.

At the museum, you can see the worst and simultaneously some of the most important parts of history.

“But his younger brother, who had a physical defect, was an experiment, part of an experiment conducted by Dr. Josef Mengele,” said Mest.

Part of the expansion at the Holocaust Museum and Education Center includes a room dedicated to the atrocities at Auschwitz.

“That is something that children and students do not get when they’re reading about the Holocaust. In a classroom, they walk into this space. They’re immersed in it, and that’s what teachers tell us is so important about coming here on a field trip,” said museum president and CEO Susan Suarez.

Suarez said what you’ll experience in another new gallery at the museum transcends history.

“And in that gallery, you can learn about specific genocides happening currently or in the more recent past through our technology and the interactive that we have in there, so it can be updated,” said Suarez.

“Because we can actually have a whole area dedicated to these things, we can really emphasize these things with students that these things didn’t develop in a vacuum,” said museum curator Cody Radamaker.

Radamaker said the local roots of the exhibits go back to when the museum was founded.

“Started from a student project at Golden Gate Middle School,” said Radamaker.

From the box car out front transporting people to concentration camps to the list of survivors with names locals might recognize, the expansion is ready for everyone to learn how our neighbors’ ancestors survived, just like how Mest’s mother did on her own at 9 years old.

“Sometimes being taken in by a family. Couple of times, they realized that she was Jewish and would sell her to the Gestapo for a five-pound bag of sugar,” said Mest, “but she overheard them a couple of times, and she managed to escape, and a Polish couple took her in for the remainder of the war.”

The museum will reopen Saturday afternoon, along with the boxcar in the parking lot. The museum is open every day except Monday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Click here for more information about the museum.

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