One of the cultural gems in Detroit is the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills. Yes, the HMC focuses on a singular theme — the Holocaust — and this is a tough subject to address. The Holocaust was the darkest era in Jewish history, as well as world history.
I agree with the premise that we must remember and educate ourselves about evil times, and organizations and individuals that perpetrated such evilness to prevent a repetition of it in the future. A tall task, to be sure, but ignoring history does not help.
For archivists, the question of whether to preserve the history of evil things such as slavery, the KKK or the removal of Native Americans from their homes, as well as the Holocaust, has historic roots. During the French Revolution in 1789, the question was: Should the historical records of royalty, the “Ancien Regime,” be retained or destroyed? Should the French citizens archive the records of those who oppressed them? The French decided that, yes, archive those historical records because they are part of history and we can learn from them. They took one additional step that Americans have followed as well — records of the government should be open to all citizens.
I thought about the Holocaust and the above question when I read a piece in the July 17, 2001, issue of the JN. The article was about the Holocaust Memorial Center purchasing land for its new building on Orchard Lake Road in Farmington Hills; it included a rendering of the new facility. This center was the dream of its founder, Rabbi Charles Rosenzveig, who was born in Ostrowiec, Poland, and who survived the Nazi occupation himself. And, it was the result of generous funding and much hard work from many members of Detroit’s Jewish community.
Today, the Holocaust Memorial Center stands as a reminder. No one who visits and learns will soon forget. The archivist in me likes this very much.
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.