Holocaust museum opens in L.A.

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — A $19 million Holocaust museum opened in a popular recreational area in Los Angeles.

Civic dignitaries and Holocaust survivors were on hand Oct. 14 for the official opening of The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust in Pan Pacific Park, near the old Jewish Fairfax district.

Admission will be free, said the museum’s board president, E. Randol Schoenberg. Among the visitors each year will be an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 high school students taking state-mandated Holocaust instruction.

With its low, grass-covered roof and nine galleries largely underground, the museum blends into its surroundings. The complex, which has been described as a 14,000-square-foot concrete cave, has won awards for its “green” design.

As visitors to the museum, designed by architect Hagy Belzberg, descend in space and history, from the first Nazi laws to the death camps, lights progressively dim. With liberation and new lives for survivors, the lights brighten.

Founded in 1961 by a group of survivors studying English in Hollywood High School adult classes, the museum started as a modest repository for the survivors’ personal photographs and concentration camp artifacts.

Over the next decades the museum moved locations four times. It was soon overshadowed by the city’s Simon Wiesenthal Center, which originally was dedicated solely to Holocaust commemoration. However, with the addition of a Museum of Tolerance, the center’s scope expanded to include recent genocides and the worldwide fight against anti-Semitism.

Schoenberg, the grandson of Viennese composers Arnold Schoenberg and Eric Zeisl, emphasized that his institution focuses solely on the Holocaust.

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