TERRE HAUTE — Soon after the doors reopened Friday at the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center, visitors arrived to see a new exhibit and hear the survivor stories.
Laura Brzegowy drove from Bloomington specifically to visit the museum.
“I’ve always had a fascination and wanted to come and just realized it was opening back up,” Brzegowy said as she looked at exhibits.
“I’ve always been fascinated with people in that time frame — their courage and resilience.”
CANDLES, founded by Holocaust survivor Eva Kor in honor of her late twin sister, Miriam, was temporarily closed due to COVID-19 for almost six months. Eva and Miriam endured medical experiments at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Their parents and older sister died at the camp.
For now, the museum’s hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. More days will be added to meet visitor demand.
Museum director Leah Simpson said she was pleased that 26 people visited Friday.
Among them was Brzegowy, a Rockville native who said she was stunned when she saw an photo exhibit of athletes in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin Germany. Recently, Brzegowy had seen a photo of her grandfather, Don Lash, when he was on the U.S. 1936 Olympics team.
Knowing her grandfather was in Berlin at the same time anti-Semitic sentiment was being fostered in Germany created a personal connection to that era, as did the books she has been reading recently about the people in the death camps of World War II.
Another visitor, Alyson Carpenter was at the museum with her twin sister Alyssa and friend Lauren Gross for a class assignment about ethics. The three are students at Indiana State University.
Alyson Carpenter said she was a middle-schooler when she met Eva Kor, so visiting the museum has been a goal for her. They heard the story of Eva’s family from a museum docent and then made their way through the well-illustrated story of oppression, slavery and genocide.
Simpson said public interested in the museum and education center has remained strong while the facility was closed.
A new exhibit completed on Thursday is called “In Their Own Words: The Mengele Twins Tell Their Stories.” The interactive, digital exhibit includes videos of survivors of the experiments of SS Doctor Joseph Mengele talking about their experiences. A viewer can touch a screen to select twins and topics.
“It’s one of those things we can continue to add to it. As we have more stories, we can build this up,” Simpson said.
A new book “The Power of Forgiveness” is also available in the gift shop. Eva Kor’s book was originally published in German several years ago, and this is the first English translation of her message of forgiveness as healing.
Today (Saturday, Feb. 20) at 4 p.m., the museum will livestream a “Be the Change” event called “Circus Jews Under National Socialism.” Socially distanced seating will be available in the museum’s theater. Admission is free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted.
“We are excited to have people back, and we are trying to be very cautionary with our cleaning routines and safety,” Simpson said.
Daily admission is $7 per person. A group rate of $5 per person is available for groups of 10 or more with at least 48-hour notice.
Masks are required when inside the museum, with social distancing and sanitizing in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information, go online to www.candlesholocaustmuseum.org or call the museum at 812-234-7881.