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Farmington Hills

January 16, 2013

Museum offers free admission on Holocaust Remembrance Day

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

FARMINGTON HILLS — On Jan. 27, people from around the world will honor the memory of those who perished during the Holocaust. In Farmington Hills, the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus will host a special presentation to mark the occasion.   

On that day, admission to the Holocaust Memorial Center will be free to visitors, though donations will still be accepted. At 1 p.m., guests can take a tour of the nation’s first free-standing Holocaust museum, which includes patron favorites like The Henrietta and Alvin Weisberg Gallery and the popular “Time Line” exhibit, which tracks the history of the Jewish people against major events in world history throughout the course of 4,000 years. Perhaps the most moving of exhibits featured, though, are the ones that focus on World War II and the first-hand accounts of Detroit-area Holocaust survivors.

The free admission offered on that day is just one way the museum hopes to bring Metro Detroiters together on such a solemn and significant occasion, according to Holocaust Memorial Center Executive Director Stephen Goldman.

“Although the U.S., Canada and Israel emphasize Yom HaShoah in the spring, most of the rest of the world honors the memories of the millions of victims of the Holocaust on Jan. 27, the date on which Auschwitz was liberated by Allied troops,” said Goldman in an email. “Our commemorating this day, along with the U.N. and Europe, the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus stakes an additional opportunity to call attention to the Holocaust and our message of hope, understanding and tolerance.”

As part of the day’s events, the museum will hold a short memorial service, followed by a special presentation at 2:30 p.m. with remarks from Fred Findling, a local attorney who, as a boy, fled Nazi-occupied Germany, narrowly escaping capture and likely death.

Findling, of Findling Law in Royal Oak, will share his fascinating tale of survival, which led him to Belgium, France, and eventually to the United States. When he was just 8 years old, his father was ripped away from his family and deported to Poland, where he was shot and killed. Later, his mother was captured by the Gestapo and taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where she was murdered upon arrival, in the gas chambers.

He, along with his two brothers, managed to evade Nazi soldiers long enough to find his way to an orphanage in France, housed in an abandoned castle, before he and his brothers were able to come to the U.S. Here, in 1948, they were reunited with their two sisters.

Despite the unthinkable tragedy Findling faced at such a young age during the Holocaust, he says his presentation at the memorial service will be one of hope instead of sorrow.

“My speech is primarily for a younger generation, because a lot of the visitors of the museum are students — high school students and college students — and the message is that, no matter what the trials and tribulations of life, or how difficult it is to advance and go through school, education is the most important thing in life, for people,” said Findling, who worked to put himself through law school at Wayne State University. “The idea is that my personal experiences are to provide a message for the next generation — how they can pursue a career and be successful in life. Humble beginnings should not deprive an individual of a productive and healthy life.”

Findling’s story, along with the stories of more than 400 Michigan Holocaust survivors, can be found by visiting www.portraitsofhonor. org. The interactive online exhibition is part of the Program for Holocaust Survivors and Families, a service of Jewish Senior Life of Metropolitan Detroit. The site includes detailed histories, photographs, maps and more to illustrate the personal journeys that brought each survivor to Michigan. 

The International Holocaust Remembrance Day events will begin at 1 p.m. Jan. 27. For more information on this presentation or other museum details, call (248) 553-2400 or visit www.holocaustcenter.org.

The Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus is located at 28123 Orchard Lake Road in Farmington Hills.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.