The Newly Expanded
Holocaust Museum Houston
Reminds Us to Never Forget
Human Rights Gallery
Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany and its collaborators were responsible for committing genocide against European Jews. This appalling perpetration has become known as the Holocaust. Since that time, countries and cities around the world have sought to educate their populations on the atrocity to ensure it never happens again.
HMH Building at Dusk
Holocaust Museum Houston Opens
In 1996, Holocaust Museum Houston (HMH), conceived of by local Holocaust survivors, opened its doors. Their purpose in constructing the facility was to preserve the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust and other genocides and to teach future generations the dangers of hatred, prejudice, and apathy. Since its opening, heartfelt notes, poems, artwork, and other gifts bestowed upon the museum attest to the impact it has on its visitors.
Young Diarists Gallery
HMH Lester and Sue Smith Campus Opens
With the recent rise in anti-Semitism and hate crimes and the reduction of human rights in general in the United States and around the world, it was decided the time was right for HMH to increase its role within the community. For this reason, an expanded campus was envisioned. In July of 2017, the original museum was closed and in October of the same year construction began on the new structure. To fill the void between the closing of the old building and the reopening of the new, a temporary museum took up the cause from October 2017 to May 2019. On June 22, 2019, HMH held its Grand Reopening.
The capital campaign goal for the expansion was $49.4 million. Actual funds raised exceeded that goal, and $54 million was raised. The new facility cost $33.8 million to construct and equip, and has an endowment of $11.7 million. A $15 million matching grant, the largest gift received for the expansion, was made by noted Houston philanthropists Lester and Sue Smith.
The newly expanded Lester and Sue Smith Campus consists of three stories and has a square footage of 57,000 feet. The original HMH was one story and had a square footage of 21,000 feet. It is now the fourth largest Holocaust museum in the United States. As it is LEED certified, the museum meets green standards. It also embraces new technology with 50 multi-media screens featured in its galleries. With its increase in size, updated technology, and bilingual English/Spanish format throughout, the museum can better educate more young minds about the Holocaust and the importance of human rights. Student field trip attendance is expected to increase by 50 percent in the first year and overall attendance is projected to grow by 35 percent.
Morgan Family Welcome Center
The New Layout
Guests visiting the museum are shown a short orientation film at the Morgan Family Welcome Center, which covers pre-war Jewish life, traditions, origins, and the Weimar period in Germany as well as an overview of anti-Semitism.
HMH Danish Rescue Boat
Bearing Witness: A Community Remembers Holocaust Gallery
Originally 4,700 square feet, the gallery now has an additional 3,016 square feet and houses the Danish Rescue Boat, Hanne Frank, like those used to transport Danish refugees from German-occupied Denmark to Sweden, and a 1942 German World War II-era rail car. The exhibits within the gallery include: Nazism in Power, Forced Removals and Ghettos, Final Solution, Deportation, Systematic Killing, World War II, Collaboration and Choices, Rescue and Resistance, Death Marches, Liberation, Rebuilding Lives, and Trials. They trace the path from the rise of Hitler as Führer of Germany to his anti-Semitic policies, which led to the Holocaust and millions of deaths, to his downfall and the liberation of the death camps and the trials that followed. The Liberation exhibit spotlights Houston-area liberators and the concentration camps they liberated, including Ben Love (Mauthausen), A. I. Schepp (Flossenberg), Birney “Chick” Havey (Dachau), and Johnny Marino (Hadamar and Bergen-Belsen). The centerpiece of the Trials exhibit is a 2-minute video projection featuring the Lipstadt, Nuremberg, and Adolph Eichmann trials.
1942 German World War II-Era Rail Car
In this gallery alone, the visitor experience is enhanced through 12 videos, four interactive digital presentations, two mini theatres, and two environmental video projections. In addition, two screens examine Destroyed Communities and Dimensions in Testimony, an interactive artificial intelligence-based technology featuring Houston’s Bill Morgan, a Holocaust survivor.
Rhona and Bruce Caress And Still I Write: Young Diarists on War and Genocide Gallery
This gallery is the first of its kind in the United States and recounts the stories of young people who kept diaries during the Holocaust; World War II; and contemporary wars and genocides in Bosnia, Iraq, and Syria. An audio soundscape of today’s teenagers reading diary excerpts greets visitors upon their approach to the gallery. When entering, they discover diarist’s portraits with text panels examining the three dimensions of the featured writings: the unique perspective of the young, what it means to write about genocide, and the significance of diaries as concurrent records.
One of the most poignant sights in the gallery is the large case that holds original diaries and artifacts. Included are the handwritten journals of Otto Wolf while he hid in the Czech lands, Miriam Korber while she lived in a ghetto in Transnistria, and Alice Ehrmann Shek while she lived in the Theresienstadt ghetto. It also features original works of art by Petr Ginz while he lived in the Theresienstadt ghetto and Stanley Hayami while he lived in the Heart Mountain Japanese American Internment Camp.
The gallery’s in-depth interactive media program encourages visitors to delve into the diaries through digital stations, each of which is connected by two screens mimicking an open book. Via the menu, participants choose one or more of the 12 featured diarists they are interested in and learn about them through an introductory biography, images, diary excerpts, and an epilogue describing their fate. A mural consisting of eighteen 44-inch video screens displays images related to the conflicts the diarists document. When a diarist is chosen, key information, quotations, and images from the diaries are superimposed over sections of the mural revealing unexpected connections among the featured diarists. Visitors leave the gallery with a new perspective on, and insights into, the Holocaust after having heard and read the experiences of these young voices.
Lester and Sue Smith Human Rights Gallery
Through three 6-minute videos, text, and graphic displays, the four exhibit walls of the gallery present and answer four questions: What Are Human Rights, which explores the concept’s principles, the impact the Holocaust had on the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its adoption by the United Nations, and the status of refugees and other minorities; How Do Atrocities Happen, which addresses atrocities committed against Armenians, Cambodians, Rwandans, Bosnians, and the indigenous peoples of North America; Who Stood up for Human Rights, which examines the determination and dedication of seven prominent “upstanders,” people who take action to make right something they recognize as wrong, who dedicated their lives to justice and accountability; What Can We Do, which is a call to action to everyone to meditate on and come up with strategies to make a difference and includes a wall where visitors can leave their suggestions on Post-it Notes.
The gallery challenges participants to engage with one another, and, through a short video, profiles the work being done in Houston and the rest of the country by Second Servings, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, Montrose Center, Catholic Charities, United Against Human Trafficking, and Interfaith Ministries to combat the injustice that exists close to home. It also features the Interfaith Champions of Hope, a tranquil space where guests are invited to meditate and reflect, taking time to think through the challenges to human rights that still face us and follow through with compassionate solutions. This exhibit includes projected images of people like Desmond Tutu; the Dalai Lama; Ruth Bader Ginsberg; and Diana, Princess of Wales who have worked to bridge the divide between cultures and advance the cause of understanding the lessons learned from modern genocides.
The Moral Choices Hall Featuring the Survivors’ Wall and Jerold B. Katz Family Butterfly Loft
The Moral Choices Hall
This new gallery is the heart of HMH. Its programs serve to remind visitors of the choices they are free to make and of the lives they can impact for the better. Within the Hall is the three-story Jerold B. Katz Family Butterfly Loft. Suspended as if it were in flight, the sculpture is made up of a kaleidoscope of 500 butterflies that connects all three floors of the museum. The butterflies represent and memorialize the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust.
For over two decades, schoolchildren from around the world have created butterflies as part of their Holocaust studies. By gaining a thorough knowledge of how genocides occur, and what can be done to prevent them, students leave HMH knowing that one person’s compassion can make a difference.
Samuel Bak Gallery
The Samuel Bak Gallery and Learning Center, In Loving Memory of Hope Silber Kaplan
This gallery displays the permanent collection of 131 of Samuel Bak’s paintings on rotation. Most were donated to the museum by the artist. Circular in shape, the gallery consists of an antechamber focusing on the artist’s life and three smaller galleries. The learning center helps visitors gain an understanding of the works and the rich symbolism contained in them and encourages visitors to consider the connections between the Holocaust and other genocides and the decisions they make today.
The Boniuk Center for the Future of Holocaust, Human Rights, and Genocide Studies
Education is a primary focus of HMH. The educational programs offered by this center feature the museum’s current programs of excellence. They are: the Warren Fellowship for Future Teachers, the Spector-Warren Fellowship for Future Teachers, the Silverman Latin American Institute, the Max M. Kaplan Summer Institute, All Behaviors Count, Engines of Change Student Ambassadors, Educator in Motion, and Through Their Eyes.
With over 2,700 square feet of flexible classroom space, the center provides a research and scholarly forum for the enlightenment and education of not only our community, but other communities around the world. Its focus is the history and memories of the Holocaust, and its mission is to demystify and elucidate questions of morality and coexistence as they pertain to human behavior and decision-making.
The Albert and Ethel Herzstein Theater
The Albert and Ethel Herzstein Theater
This 187-seat theater is designed, and equipped, to provide a state-of-the-art experience for visitors and students. Its professional performance-sized stage allows the museum to expand the variety of presentations offered on-site, from lectures to films and musical performances. In the fall of 2019, the Houston Chamber Choir performed Annelies, the first major choral setting of Anne Frank’s Diary, on the newly opened Mady and Ken Kades Stage.
The Boniuk Library
The Boniuk Library
This remarkable library takes up the better part of the museum’s third floor. It is one of the largest resources in the United States for data on communities destroyed by the Holocaust. With over 10,000 volumes and numerous resources for in-house research and education, the facility supports enhanced public access to a collection that includes, among other items, oral testimonies by 285 Holocaust survivors for research purposes and genealogical research. It is also home to the Edith and Josef Mincberg Destroyed Communities Interactive Research Center, which, by means of a touchscreen, teaches visitors about the history of 90 communities destroyed in the Holocaust, provides photos of pre-Holocaust life, and recounts survivor stories. Two climate-controlled archival vaults, rolling stack shelving for the library’s book collection, a reading room, workstations, a conference room, and an archival research room enhance the library’s ability to provide exceptional facilities for those seeking knowledge on the Holocaust.
HMH hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free for children and students, including college students with a valid college ID; $15 for adults; and $10 for seniors, AARP members, and active military. As a member of the Houston Museum District Association, HMH waives admission from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Thursday. Parking is available onsite in the museum’s lot for $8 for the first four hours. For more details, please visit hmh.org.
Since its conception in 1996, HMH has reminded Houstonians and visitors from around the world of the dangers of hatred, prejudice, division, blame, and complacency and has told the stories of those who suffered and lost their futures because of these tendencies. Its most important lessons to us all are that we should never forget and that each one of us has the obligation and power to stop oppression and genocide and never allow the Holocaust to be repeated. With the newly expanded Lester and Sue Smith Campus, HMH is able to deliver its message with more thought-provoking displays, richer presentations, and a stronger voice than ever before. By doing so, those who travel its halls and galleries come to understand the importance of its message and are inspired to take it with them when they leave.