Holocaust exhibit opens at Posnack JCC

Holocaust exhibit opens at Posnack JCC

10:45 a.m. EDT, May 23, 2012


Steven Montrose remembers the Holocaust. "How can I describe the smell of death to you? It's like the drilling of a tooth, the smell of burning flesh," the 74-year-old survivor said to an audience of teachers, police and representatives from churches and synagogues at a reception for "The Courage to Remember: The Holocaust 1933-1945," a photographic exhibit that opened last week at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie for a run through May 31.

Montrose, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, survived Ravensbruck and Sachsenhausen before being liberated by the Russian army in April 1945. He spent five years in London after the war and came to the United States in 1952 at the age of 14. "I was full of hate and rage," Montrose said. "I was able to finally forgive what happened to me. I haven't forgotten what happened to me."

SNCF, the French National Railroad, provided a grant to a California foundation for the exhibit, developed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance, to tour California and to visit Tallahassee, Naples and Davie.

Alain Leray, chief executive officer of SNCF's American subsidiary, told the audience that "during World War II, under the direction of the Nazis and the French Vichy government" the railroad transported 76,000 French Jews, homosexuals and gypsies on its trains.

German trains then took them to their deaths at Auschwitz and other camps.

Leray, a French Jew whose grandparents and parents survived the Holocaust, said that "SNCF deeply regrets the role it played during the war" and "has dedicated itself to transparency, remembrance and Holocaust education."

Ken Novikoff of Deerfield Beach said the exhibit "in no way rights the taking away of innocent French and innocent French children." But it is important for the world to know about the Holocaust, he said. "For this reason it was important to accept [SNCF's] funding."

Last Wednesday a small number of people filed through the exhibit, which begins with the role that the French National Railroad played in the Holocaust. Almost 200 black and white photographs depict in often graphic detail the rise of Nazi Germany, the move toward the "Final Solution," the annihilation of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe and liberation and the building of new lives.

"It's really mind blowing because it's so real," said Odra Dorante, 16, who came from Royal Palm Beach to see the exhibit. The survivors are "here for a reason," she said. "They're here to spread the message to never forget and keep teaching so people like me can pass it on to other generations," said Dorante, a Catholic whose best friend is Jewish and from a family that lost members in the Holocaust.

The Holocaust "didn't happen that long ago and it has never stopped," said Simon Lewenberg, 88, of Sunrise, who survived nine labor and concentration camps. "The young generation should know about all the atrocities that went on," he said.

Peyton Tobin, youth director at New Horizons Methodist Church in Cooper City and a Pembroke Pines resident, brought several of her children to see the exhibit. Tobin said she would return with her son who is in the 5th grade. She said she was struck by the Nazis' "disregard for humanity and the arrogance of Hitler. He told people what he was doing and nobody stood up."

"The Courage to Remember: The Holocaust 1933-1945" can be viewed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through May 31 at the David Posnack JCC, 5850 S. Pine Island Road in Davie. Admission is free. Call the JCC at 954-434-0499.