When I realized that Union Station in Kansas City, Mo. was going to host the exhibit, "Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away." I knew I wanted to go! Years ago, when I was in Washington D.C., I was able to get tickets to the Holocaust Museum. The images were haunting, the video footage overwhelming, the smell from the shoes as you unexplainable!
I obviously remember how I felt and how emotional it was while at the Holocaust Museum, but I wondered how much I did not fully process. Having this exhibit a quick two hours away in Kansas City seemed like an opportunity to again walk thru history!
First off, make sure you purchase tickets in advance! Available dates can be weeks out, so you need to have a plan! We purchased our tickets about a month ago from the Union Station website, so we were ready! The Auschwitz exhibit will be at Union Station through Jan. 2022. Upon entering you are provided with a headset and audio player to walk you through the exhibit.
The exhibit starts with the rise of the Nazi party and how it became to be in control. The collapse of the economy, then the segregation of the Jewish people. You will see personal items donated by family members to the museum. Desks from the Haberfeld family who were in American at the time and trying to get home to Germany when the Nazi's took power. They lost their only daughter who stayed home with her grandmother, both were taken by the Nazis. Their home was looted, their whiskey business lost, but the most precious, their daughter, gone!
The Tallit on display was given to a Jewish boy at his bat mitzvah, then as he was getting married, he wore it at his wedding. As I am looking at the Tallit, the audio tour spoke the words, "you should not be seeing this" and it hit me! This item was saved by this man who above all wanted to make sure his prayer shawl was kept safe. He should have been buried with it........
Passing through you begin to see the clothing given to the Jews shortly after they got off the trains. All their possessions and clothing stripped away to only receive a set of striped clothing and wooden shoes.
On display is part of one of the barracks brought from Auschwitz, which is followed by a showerhead, a replica of the shower room door used in the "delousing" showers, and then the images! The images that have been drawn by survivors of the millions of men, women, and children heading to their deaths. It is overwhelming as it should be to us all.
As you pass through you also enter the section that shares the story of Anne Frank and her family. While most of us probably read Anne Frank's Diary while in School, I will be the first one to admit that I did not remember as many details as I should have.
There are additional letters and journals on display from the notes and cards shared with families when the prisoners were allowed to send and receive letters one day each month.
The video played of men who were Sonderkommandos at Auschwitz. These men, who were Jews themself, had the horrific job of moving the dead bodies to be cremated. You move on to several display cases that share items found after the liberation of Auschwitz. The shoes of children, tiny spoons, tin mugs and bowls, reading glasses and more remind you that everything they had was taken instantaneously from them.
Can you even begin to imagine the confusion and fear as they stood there? The bewilderment of the situation, being told lies to find out that the most unimaginable situation was now your reality.
Towards the end, after the liberation, the survivors share how they survived. They did not survive alone, but with the help of each other. Far too many did and still do not live by the mentality of the Auschwitz survivors.
Going into the final gallery the Audio tour reminds you of the estimated numbers murdered at Auschwitz, and how the landscape of a country was changed, and how an entire population was almost eradicated.
Then, in the end, these people are brought to life in a way I hope that you see so that you can become immersed as well in the exhibit. It was here that the name of the exhibit hits you, Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.
Then the final quote from an Auschwitz survivor as you exit the exhibit, is there to remind us how to live. To learn and remember that we must all do what we can to stand up and protect those who can not protect themselves. The words of how to live life and remind us that so many who came before us did not sacrifice so much so that we could just stand ideally by in our own life.