Freight cars were used to deport people to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. According to historians, up to approximately 80 people were crammed into a single boxcar.

Courtesy of ©Musealia

Of the 6 million Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust, an estimated 1 million died at Auschwitz.

Earlier this year on May 8—marking 74 years after the 1945 Nazi surrender signaled the end of World War II in Europe—a major exhibition at New York City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage invited viewers to delve into this dark period in not-so-far-off history.

Originally set to run through January 3, 2020, the Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. exhibit has drawn more than 106,000 recorded visitors to the museum since its opening date. Due to this high demand, the New York institution recently announced that it will extend the poignant exhibition’s current run through August 30, 2020—eight months beyond its originally scheduled close date.

Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. traces the development of Nazi ideology, outlining the transformation of the Polish town named Oświęcim into Auschwitz. Curated by an international team of experts and historians, the 18,000-square-foot exhibition includes personal testimonies from Holocaust survivors as well as more than 1,000 artifacts recovered from Auschwitz. Among the items on display are a German-made freight wagon that was used to transport Jews to the extermination camp, concrete posts that were part of the Auschwitz fence, plus suitcases, eyeglasses, shoes, and other belongings that were left behind by survivors and victims.

The exhibition showcases suitcases confiscated from deportees to Auschwitz in front of a photograph of hostages arriving at the camp.

Courtesy of ©Musealia

Located about 45 miles west of Krakow, Poland, Auschwitz was one of many sites used by the Nazis to carry out the systematic “extermination” of Jews and other minority groups during the Holocaust. It remains the largest documented mass murder site in human history and has since become an enduring symbol of the dangerous realms to which the spread of xenophobia and hate speech can lead.

“When we had the vision to create the exhibition, we conceived its narrative as an opportunity to better understand how such a place could come to exist and as warning of where hatred can take us to,” said Luis Ferreiro, director of the international exhibition firm Musealia, which partnered with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland to create the exhibition project.

As part of this goal, the exhibition—the largest on Auschwitz ever to be presented in the United States—goes beyond showcasing recovered artifacts from the concentration camp. Throughout 20 galleries that span three floors of the museum, Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. provides context about the rise of Nazism by outlining the stories of various Holocaust victims, perpetrators, and bystanders. The exhibit sheds light on the aftermath of the horrific experiences by Holocaust survivors—the youngest of whom are in their mid-70s today—displaying more than 100 artifacts from survivors who found refuge in the greater New York City area, such as sketchbooks and letters of personal correspondence, some of which have never before been on display in the United States. The collection also features 10 artifacts on loan from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, including the dried beans that Frank spilled and wrote about in her diary, which were later discovered between the cracks of stairs in the home where she hid from the Nazis.

Ahead of the Jewish high holidays this September, the museum notably added another object of significance to the exhibition: a shofar (the wind instrument made from a ram’s horn that is used during Jewish holy services), which was hidden and secretly blown by individuals at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The inmate cap of 18-year-old Hanoch Kolman, who was deported to Auschwitz in the fall of 1942

Courtesy of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, gift of Henry Coleman

Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. arrived in New York City in May 2019 after a twice-extended run in Madrid, where it drew more than 600,000 visitors between December 2017 and February 2019, becoming one of Europe’s most visited exhibitions in 2018. The exhibition debuted in North America during a period in which anti-Semitism, white nationalism, and violence against minority groups continue to rise, both across the United States and around the world. “As the title of the exhibit suggests, Auschwitz is not ancient history but living memory,” said Bruce C. Ratner, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees. “My hope for this exhibit is that it motivates all of us to make the connections between the world of the past and the world of the present and to take a firm stand against hate, bigotry, ethnic violence, religious intolerance, and nationalist brutality of all kinds.”

“This exhibit reminds, in the starkest ways, where anti-Semitism can ultimately lead,” said Ron Lauder, founder and chairman of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation Committee and president of the World Jewish Congress. “And the world should never go there again.”

Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. runs through August 30, 2020, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. Tickets are available for purchase at Admission costs $16 for adults, $12 for seniors and people with disabilities, and $10 for students and veterans. Holocaust survivors, active members of the military and first responders, plus educators and students under 12th grade in NYC area schools receive free entry. Complimentary audio guides with detailed narration in English, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Mandarin, German, Polish, or Russian are offered upon entry to the exhibit.

This article originally appeared online in May 2019; it was updated on October 31, 2019, to include current information.

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