Survivor Reflections

Survivors who worked to build the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center reflect on what the new museum means to them.

Sam Harris

Sam Harris

The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center will serve as a beacon to the world…

A beacon of hope where we, our children and grand children will learn from the past and make sure that this or any kind of Holocaust does not happen in the future.

Janine Oberrotman


For many years after the war I felt deep despair in the silence about Shoah that surrounded me. The murdered ones were neither remembered nor mourned by the world except for those who were close to them. But what about those who died anonymously without families to mourn them? Today in the symbolism of the new Museum I breathe freely. Those who died will be remembered and accounted for not only in the artifacts, the art, the library, but in the heart of its most dedicated and competent staffers I have ever encountered in any organization and in the enthusiasm of its army of volunteers. I, the survivor, feel infinitely grateful to all the people who made this Museum possible. I can die in peace. The legacy will live and go forth not only within the walls of the Museum and in its many programs but, hopefully, in the hearts and minds of the young and the old who will visit it, who will remember and, hopefully, use their knowledge in Tikkun Olam.

George Levy Mueller


As a survivor and member of the Speakers Bureau, I am excited about the new Holocaust Museum which will continue to educate people and tell what really happened in Europe and especially in Germany during the 1930's and 1940's.

Marguerite Mishkin

Survivor_MargueriteMishkinMarguerite MishkinThe essence of the Museum is a gift and a message from the survivors to future generations. The gift: The opportunity to experience history through testimonies and artifacts. The message: to fight intolerance wherever and whenever it exists.

Fritzie Fritzshall

Fritzie-Fritzschall-231x300.jpgWords fail me because I am overwhelmed by the generosity and caring that has taken place in the building of this museum. It’s a dream that has come true. The opening is truly a bittersweet moment for me and the survivors who have worked so hard for it. The dream becomes reality with the support and participation of our community. The Museum brings a wonderful opportunity forward to teach about the past, to learn about the legacy and to show the younger generation a better future.

Walter Reed

Walter-Reed-260x300.jpgA few years ago I had the privilege of hearing Sara Bloomfield, the executive director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, express the long-range plans then under consideration for her institution. She focused on the fact that what the Museum had meant and done to date needed to be exchanged for a much different role, looking decades ahead when eyewitnesses would long be gone and when the history of the Holocaust would need to be portrayed as history and no longer as a quasi – “current event.”

That time has also arrived for what some courageous and devoted founders had established in Skokie and in Illinois. Time has elapsed since that meaningful founding and here too what were live events are becoming “history.” It is therefore time to offer to the present and future population of the Midwest a suitable facility of education and enlightenment, which presents the Holocaust meaningfully both as history and also as a reminder that its tragedies and atrocities are a matter of the past, which should be ominous warnings to future generations to honor and respect humanity, no matter what the aims of misguided non-believers.

In my view that is what the planners of the new Illinois facility have in mind and rightly so. In other words, we are not leaving the scene, just passing the baton. Mazel tov.

Agnes Schwartz

Agnes SchwartzI have watched the new museum grow from groundbreaking to its completion. It is a dream come true not only for those who conceived the idea and went forward with it, but to those of us who have been affiliated with the museum in different capacities. I am awed by the thought that my grandchildren will be able to bring their children to the museum and show them, “Grandma taught children like you about the Holocaust because she felt it was important for young people to know about it and confirm that it really happened.”

I hope this museum will serve as an educational center to fight prejudice for many years to come. Congratulations to all whose hard work made this dream come to fruition.

Max Epstein

Max-Epstein-279x300.jpgThe opening of the new Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center coincides with an epochal change in the evolution of this institution. Originally built and ministered by survivors, it also stimulated governmental action to promote the teaching of tolerance. The nearly complete destruction of European Jewry was not only the result of the actions by an evil minority but by the silence and acquiescence of the majority. We, the survivors, managed to build new and productive lives from the ashes of the Holocaust, including contributions to existing societies, such as in the United States, and the creation of a new and vibrant democratic State of Israel.

With the inevitable passing of the generation of survivors, the new Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center must adopt a different style to fulfill its mission, which is no less urgent than in the past. I thought that by enduring the horrors of the Holocaust, I could, at least, say that I am leaving a better world to my children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, it is not so. The remedy, if any, does not lie only in governmental action but requires relentless education of future generations to the dangers of complacency. Even though there were always people of good will they constituted a woeful minority.

Ralph Rehbock

7052-Rehbock.jpgOur new Holocaust Museum and Education Center is probably the last to be built with the involvement of living survivors. It is a tribute to those who have devoted their lives to this project while honoring and memorializing our family members who did not survive and those who have not lived to see this magnificent structure become a reality.

We are so proud of the involvement of those many who have dedicated themselves to perpetuating the goals and aspirations of those of us who have lived to witness the grand opening of our dream, not an inanimate object, but a meaningful melding of a building with a heart and soul.

We know that this “House of Education” will live on after we survivors are no longer able to actively tell our stories of survival and loss, and will continue to flourish for and with our children and our children’s children. We have created a memorial and much more, an institution which will thrive as an education center devoted to teaching the message of the history and much more. We hope and pray that future generations will understand the significance of this event and learn that such behavior can never be allowed to happen again.

Aaron Elster

Aaron-Elster-300x295.jpgThe reality is now. It is here. It’s complete. It is here to teach and enlighten our young people. It will also serve as a warning that we can not idly stand by while our fellow humans are being decimated regardless of their origins, religious beliefs or pigmentation of their skin. We, as survivors, have made this our mission to stand and speak out as loudly as our voices will carry and to those that will listen, that the atrocities committed against us and our families must never recur to any people – “Never Again.” And what does this Museum mean to me?

It is my personal resting place for those that I loved so dearly and lost so early in my life. It will be my “Shalom Memorial Park’. It is a place where I can now go and pray for their souls. Pay my respect, convey my deepest longing and finally know that they are at peace in this sacred place of our dreams fulfilled.

The race for our survival for this day is over. We are here and grateful for this day…

Magda Brown

magda-brown-187x300.jpgAs a member of the Speaker’s Bureau, I have been privileged to observe the progress–from the groundbreaking to the opening–of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. My congratulations to the many participants who worked diligently to accomplish this dream.

My personal experiences in the Holocaust involved losing my home, my property and my country, and becoming an orphan, a slave laborer, and a refugee. At the age of eighteen I was left alone to decide my future.

The museum will educate all who attend about the horrors of the Holocaust. And for those unfortunate people who somehow deny the existence of the Holocaust, the museum will offer an opportunity to view authentic photos, documents, and survivor testimonies that substantiate the reality of gas chambers, crematoriums and the horrible conditions we faced.

A message to the visitors: Defend the memory of the 6 million who perished by standing up to the deniers.

Rodi Glass

Rodi-Glass-1-229x300.jpgIt is such an exciting time for me as a survivor to have our very own museum to visit. To be a survivor is a miracle and to be able to have this museum to go to and work for is a blessing.

Cipora Katz

Cipora-Katz-child-1-225x300.jpgThe Museum reflects one’s past, present, and future. It will teach the young, middle- aged, and elderly, that the Holocaust did happen, and how important it is to prevent future discrimination, hatred, and bigotry, regardless of one’s race or religion. I hope that everyone will learn, that when we say in Hebrew “Dayenu,” meaning enough or never again, we mean it, in order to prevent future genocides.

As for myself, the Bench that my family and friends placed through donations, to memorialize my parents and sister that perished, will be a life time memory, as well as my “Blanket” that survived with me, and I donated to the museum, will remain a treasure from generation to generation. This museum will above all emphasize to the young generation that they are probably the last generation to meet face to face with the Holocaust Survivors. It will be incumbent upon them to pass on to others all they hear and see. Everyone must remember the word “Shalom”—”Peace,” since it is the “Hope” of all humanity. B’Shalom

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