8News Daytrippers: The Virginia Holocaust Museum

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Each week, 8News Meteorologist Tim Pandajis explores different day trip spots in our area. You can get to most of them on just a tank a gas! This week, Tim visits a more somber location: The Virginia Holocaust Museum.

Located off of Cary Street in downtown Richmond the Virginia Holocaust Museum is dedicated to the remembrance of those who suffered and perished during the Holocaust. In particular, an emphasis is placed on those lost who were relatives or friends of those here in Virginia.

“Two things: One, the Richmond community deserves an educational place like this to learn about the Holocaust without having to hop in the car and drive 2 hours to DC,” says Matt Simpson, Director of Guest Services at the Virginia Holocuast Museum. “But also there is a story that our Richmond survivors have that are worth telling. There is a fairly substantial concentration of Holocaust survivors that ended up here in Richmond after the war. We use their stories to tell the story of the Holocaust.”

One of the exhibits in the museum tells the story of one of Richmond’s youngest Holocaust survivors and co-founder of the museum, Jay Ipson, whose family escaped capture by living underground for months during world war II.

The exhibit is called ‘Paskovskis farm,’ which is actualyl a bunker underground where Jay, one of the found members of the museum, lived for three months with 12 other people to avoid capture by Lithuanian authorities.

This past January marked 7 decades since the liberation of Auschwitz and the museum is launching a new traveling exhibit to commemorate it.

“So what we are doing is creating a traveling exhibit for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz which is this year, it was actually in January of this year,” said Tim Hensley, the museum’s Director of Guest Services. “It is unique in the sense that as far as we know there aren’t any other traveling exhibits specifically about Auschwitz in the United States. This will allow us to have a permanent exhibit at the museum based on museum material that we can ship out to other institutions around the country, we plan on opening this in April of 2015.”

Walking through the museum you become immersed not only in the hardships and terror of the Holocaust, but also in the allied attempts and successes at liberating those devastating concentration camps that were built throughout Europe.

“The crown jewel of the museum, the most recent permanent exhibit that we’ve added we opened in May of 2008 is called the Nuremberg courtroom or the palace of justice,” Simpson said. “The exhibit tells the story of the trial of the major Nazi war criminals.”

The museum houses the only full size replica in the world of Courtroom 600 in Nuremberg, the site of where the Nazis were held accountable for their crimes and tried. On one side you’ll find the defendants, the highest ranking Nazi officers captured during the war. On the other side are the the judges – two from each country – Russia, Great Britain, France and the United States.

History is a profound part of everyday life and in order to better understand the present, one should always look to the past.

The Virginia Holocaust museum uses its exhibits to educate its visitors and help them leave with a better understanding of what prisoners of the camps went through nearly 70 years ago.

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