The hallway grows darker as one descends into the concrete passage. The natural light grows dimmer as you proceed past exhibits filled with photos and artifacts documenting the horrors of the Holocaust.
“The Reflective Hallway is purposely designed to create a space that you can reflex and learn as you prepare for the next exhibit and the next chapter of this history,” explains Jordanna Gessler, Vice President of Education and Exhibits for the Holocaust Museum Los Angeles.
“The natural light diminishes,” she says, ” and the ceiling gets lower as you move deeper into the museum and deeper into the history of the Holocaust.”
The dimmest part of the museum is where the darkest moments of the Holocaust are remembered.
Photos and displays of the victims and the camps stepped with suffering are found here. These moments forever changed the world.
This is where you can find Renee Firestone, a 97-year old Holocaust survivor. She will sit and answer all the questions you might have about her and the grim days she spent at Auschwitz. At least her holographic image will.
“Dimensions In Testimony” is a holographic historical journey into 1940s Nazi Germany through the eyes of a survivor of one of the saddest periods of world history.
Halston Van Atta, 12-years old, sat with her mother and asked the image of Firestone questions.
“It was fascinating how the technology lets you ask any question, and she answers,” Van Atta said.
The image of Firestone moves in her seat as she tells her story.
“It made me feel horrible that people had to go through that, but she came through without hate in her,” the teenager from West Hollywood added.
The exhibit was created by the USC Shoah Foundation, a nonprofit group that does audio-visual interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and funded by the Goldrich Family Foundation. It uses taps the latest in artificial intelligence and volumetric video-capture technology.
“We are excited to open the Dimensions In Testimony exhibit, a one-of-a-kind holographic experience where you can have a conversation with a Holocaust survivor in real-time,” said Beth Kean, CEO of Holocaust Museum L.A..
“Every single visitor will get to meet a Holocaust survivor,” he added. “In this case, they get to meet Renee Firestone,”
Firestone, a former museum board member, was born Renee Weinfeld in 1924 in Uzhorod, Czechoslovakia.
Currently, one of the world’s oldest Holocaust survivors, she was sent as a youth to live at Auschwitz with her mother and sister. Her mother was immediately sent to her death in the gas chambers, and her sister was murdered after being experimented on by the infamous Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele, Firestone said.
Firestone survived her imprisonment and made her way to America in 1948. She eventually settled in Los Angeles.
She realized her dream of becoming a couture clothing designer; some of her work is included in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s permanent collection.
Firestone sat with a soft smile on Friday and talked about sitting in the room when her answers to questions about her experiences were recorded.
When asked why it is vital to have an exhibit like this, her tone shifts.
“It is very important that they learn about the Holocaust, whether I tell them or someone else,” she said, her striking blue eyes seeming to emphasize her point.
“I am grateful that there is a museum like this so that people learn and understand the Holocaust and know that it happened.”
As time passes, fewer and fewer survivors will be able to tell of their experiences during the Holocaust. Kean believes this exhibit is critical.
“It’s an opportunity to hear from the last living witnesses,” Kean said, “hear the truth about what happened in the Holocaust, ask questions, and learn from a Holocaust survivor.”
The groundbreaking holographic historical exhibit will mark the 60th anniversary and reopening of the Holocaust Museum L.A., following its closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Holocaust Museum LA makes its official reopening on Saturday, July 31. It is free to students and California residents; reservations are required. They are available at https://www.holocaustmuseumla.org/.
Source: Orange County Register