When Leo Willich was having a really bad day, he pulled out a box he had
protected for decades. Inside was a clean uniform with hauntingly
familiar vertical stripes and sewn-on tags. He would put on the garment
he wore every day at Auschwitz and look in the mirror. From the safety
of his home in Cincinnati, he would have hope for a better day.
"That teaches a lesson in itself," says Sarah Weiss, 29, executive director of The Center for the Holocaust and Humanity Education
in Kenwood, where Willich's uniform is displayed in the Mapping Our Tears exhibit.
The collection of artifacts from Holocaust survivors who settled in
Cincinnati connects the past with the present, and the future, in a
powerful way. A pair of battered gold earrings tells the story of a teen
girl's determination to keep her connection to her family alive. A
potato peeler serves as a reminder of those who risked their lives to
hide Jewish families from Nazi soldiers.
Along with a theater that looks and feels like an attic, where visitors
watch video testimonies from local survivors, the artifacts reflect the
Center's founders, a group of Holocaust survivors who met regularly
beginning in the 1950s. They gathered for support and for connection.
"It was more like family," Weiss says.
From 2000 until 2006, the Center was housed at Hebrew Union College
in Clifton. A desire for more space and an independent identity
converged when the Center became a distinct non-profit and moved to the
campus of Rockwern Academy
on Montgomery Road.
Weiss explains that the Center's mission reaches beyond honoring the
memories of the Holocaust. "We want to teach everyone who comes to be
critical thinkers," she says. "That is equally important."
With just three full-time staff and one Public Ally
the Center provides programming for and education to more than 40,000
people each year. In 10 years, its programs have touched a half million
• Visit the Center
Find a place of deep knowledge and even deeper respect for humanity
between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. till 3 p.m. Sundays.
Entrance cost is a $5 donation per person, but Weiss adds that no
visitor will be turned away.
• Remember May 1. Designated Yom Hashoah
it is the date on which all who died during the Holocaust—most of whom
left little evidence of their lives, much less their death date--are
remembered and honored.
• Be a friend
. "Like" The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education on Facebook. ?
• Run The Great Human Race
. Lace up your shoes for the May 15 fundraiser at Lunken Airport Playfield.
By Elissa Yancey
Photo courtesy The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education