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Holocaust Museum in Naples works to put faces to the Holocaust

Holocaust Museum and Cohen Education Center
Holocaust Museum & Janet G. and Harvey D. Cohen Education Center.
Students take a tour at the Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center in Naples. The museum works with local Holocaust survivors to educate and to inspire others.

Next Thursday, Jan. 27 will mark the 77th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the largest concentration camp run by Nazi Germany during World War II. In 2005, the United Nations declared that day International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“It’s not just about memorializing those lives that were lost, but it’s to really understand how humanity can improve,” said Susan Suarez, President and CEO of the Holocaust Museum and Cohen Education Center in Naples.

The Holocaust Museum has more than 1,000 photographs and artifacts from the Holocaust and World War II era. Through these items, individual faces and lives are brought into context and help people to understand the personal impact this had.

“Over six million Jews were murdered and six million other people that the Nazis deemed inferior were murdered,” Suarez said. “But these numbers can be overwhelming and difficult to fathom. So we don’t talk about statistics so much as we talk about personal stories. So we make history personal.”

Silver Torah Pointer
Susan Suarez
This silver Torah Pointer was smuggled into Italy from Poland by 12-year-old Ruth Wartski. This Torah Pointer is one of many items the Holocaust Museum has that survived the Holocaust.

A silver Torah Pointer is one of the items the museum has to reach audiences on a personal level. An exhibit in the museum describes how the Torah Pointer survived the Holocaust.

According to the exhibit, the Wartskis were a family of four, living in Danzig, Poland. To avoid punishment for their religion, Hermann Wartski left to find safety in Italy. His family would leave to join him two months later.

Hermann told his family they couldn’t bring anything that would let others know they were Jewish. The Nazis also passed a law that forbade emigrating Jews from taking silver or gold objects.

12-year-old Ruth ignored her father, taking the silver Torah Pointer and placing it in the bottom of her satchel.

When the rest of the Wartski family left to join Hermann, they followed the same route. At the Brenner Pass border into Italy, they were stopped by the Gestapo and questioned for hours. The Gestapo never found the Torah Pointer.

The family reunited with Hermann in Italy. Today, Hermann’s son, Heinz, lives in Naples, Florida and is currently involved with the Holocaust Museum.

“It’s just a whole different impact that you can get, rather than reading a book or watching a video,” Suarez said of visitors who get to view objects from the Holocaust.

The Holocaust Museum also works with Holocaust survivors, so they can share their stories with others and to help educate people on what the Nazi's called "The Final Solution."

Judit Price
Judit Price
Judit Price is a Holocaust Survivor who currently lives in Naples. Price is involved with the Holocaust Museum and Cohen Education Center in Naples.

Judit Price is one such survivor who works with the museum. Before the pandemic, she presented her story in local schools, to students in 5th through 12th grades.

Price was born March 1, 1944, in Budapest, Hungary, where her mother’s family owned an apartment building. Price said that her mother and father lived on either the sixth or seventh floor. When the Nazis came and started to round up the Hungarian Jews, Price’s mother, Eva Salgo hid with her in the basement.

“People were starving and [my mother] was starving, and the reason we survived was because she was nursing me. She washed my diapers in the melted snow. She was afraid they would discover us. She didn’t like to talk about it much,” Price said.

Price’s father, Alexander Salgo was captured and put on a boxcar bound for Auschwitz. He was able to jump off of the train, and ran to a farmer’s ranch where he hid. Toward the end of World War II, a neighboring farmer alerted the Nazis of his hiding place.

Price said that because it was at the end of the war, the Germans weren’t deporting Jews to Auschwitz anymore. Instead, Price’s father was sent to a slave labor camp in Hungary.

She and her mother were reunited with Alexander when she was three or four months old, since Alexander had a short leave from the slave labor camp. When he went back to the camp, Price and her mother wouldn’t see him again until nearly a year later in 1945.

Price said she doesn’t remember much of the Holocaust since she was an infant. She never asked her parents many questions because it was a difficult subject. Her parents wanted to forget.

“I wish I could give more answers. I wish I knew more about it. I wish I asked more questions… My family didn’t come forth about this information so I just let it go,” Price said.

Now, Price is able to educate younger generations about what happened during the Holocaust and why it’s important.

“I can contribute something to the community and to the future of the survival of the story,” Price said. “There are people who negate it and deny [the Holocaust]. I am a living example that it happened and it was here.”