We planned an extended weekend trip through the state, and we made sure that Terre Haute was part of it.
On the day we went the museum was open from 1-4. I wasn't exactly sure of what to expect from the place. We have been to the US Holocaust Museum in D.C. but certainly the Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute would be different.
And it was different. The place is very small with few rooms, and it is tiny compared to the multi level site in Washington. The place has a huge heart though, and I can say that we enjoyed our visit to the CANDLES Museum just as much as our visit to the somewhat similar site in D.C.
The CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute is serving a different purpose too. The larger museum in our nations capital covers just about everything you can think of relating to the Holocaust. The site in Terre Haute is smaller, and it has more of a personal touch to it; CANDLES gives more specific details of one person's story.
So, we arrived at the museum a few minutes after 1. We saw one large room with pictures, maps and other items relating to the Holocaust. Maybe 20-30 other people were hanging around the front entrance. We paid our small admission fee (we would realize later that $5 each was a real bargain!).
We chatted with the girl selling tickets. She asked us where we were from and all, and then she introduced us to Eva Kor who is the face of the museum. She made a point to talk to everyone about where they were from and all. She was very friendly and pleasant.
We all talked a bit and then around 1:20 Eva directed everyone to pull up a chair and gather around the first corner of the main museum room.
Over the next two plus hours, Eva talked about her own personal experiences. As a little girl (10 years old) she was taken by cattle car to Auschwitz where she and her twin sister were immediately forced to be test subjects of Dr. Mengele. Other than her twin sister, she would never see her other family members again.
You can imagine that everyone at the CANDLES Museum the day I was there listened to Eva carefully for those two hours with their jaws touching the floor. Her story is amazing.
In fact, I will not write anymore about her story. It belongs to her, and you need to hear it from her! First hand witness accounts are rare and Terre Haute is lucky to have her telling her story a couple of times each week!
If you cannot get to Terre Haute thats OK. A documentary about Eva can be found pretty easily (I found it on Netflix). It is called "Forgiving Dr. Mengele" and it is great too! The film covers Eva's decision to forgive the Nazis. In the film another Nazi doctor meets with Eva to discuss what he witnessed himself in the gas chambers. Eva also deals in the film with other survivors who are opposed to her forgiving of the Nazis.
The main theme of the movie, and of the CANDLES Holocaust Museum is forgiveness. Eva brings that up many times. She discussed it with confidence as her talk ended on my visit to the museum.
Eva is at the museum two days a week (Wednesdays and Saturdays), and her husband (also a Holocaust survivor) is there on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Another friend who fled to the US in 1939 is there on Fridays.
My wife and I both want to go back at some point. Multiple visits are necessary. I really want to hear the stories that the others have to tell. We both want to go back to hear Eva Kor again too.
When Eva ended her presentation I felt disappointed. I wanted to hear more. I wanted to stand, applaud, and ask for an encore. Eva's story, her ability to tell it, and her desire to forgive make her one of the most amazing people I have ever met.
I LOVE the fact that CANDLES Holocaust Museum has a witness there every day to discuss their story. I do appreciate seeing relics, art and other items associated with a place, person or event at a museum- but CANDLES has an actual participant in that moment of history there each day. You can't beat that and I know of no other museum that can make that kind of claim.
In addition to the CANDLES museum, we visited some other great sites in the area. I will have posts on them up soon. For now let me say that you must visit Terre Haute and the CANDLES Holocaust Museum.