Beth Shalom,the Holocaust Centre Laxton, a Place of Many Emotions
The Founding of Beth Shalom
In September 1995 brothers, Stephen and James Smith founded the first holocaust memorial museum in England. After a visit to Yad Vashem, Jerusalem in the early 1990's the brothers learnt of the extent to which the holocaust had effected many people across the globe.
However, they realised that in Britain as well as many other countries the full horror and extent of the Holocaust could not be grasped by the people who had not witnessed it first hand. They decided to create a Holocaust exhibition. At the time the brothers did not realise that their initial plans of a small exhibition would soon develop into Beth Shalom the Holocaust Memorial Museum the first of its kind in England.
The Memorial Garden
Built within the grounds of an old farm building in Laxton Nottinghamshire, the area provides an unexpected peaceful entrance. The tranquility of the place hits you as soon as you enter with a serenity which cannot be explained.
With 2 acres of grounds the centre is fronted by a 1 acre memorial garden which contains statues and over 800 roses in remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust. All the statues and garden sculptures have been created by holocaust survivors
Many of the roses have been planted by surviving friends and relatives, and the plaques are simply stated but overwhelming at the same time.
Yet another sim[ple but disturbing symbol is the pile of stones to the right of the garden. Each of the stones placed there symbolises a child lost to the holocaust.
The garden is truly a place for reflection and is a stark contrast to the museum itself.
The museum building itself houses a vast display of text and photographs depicting the life of Jews before, during and after the second World War. It covers Jewish life, the ghettos and concentration camps and the Final Solution.
Part of the experience is the journey, which leads you through rooms as you follow the life of a jewish boy living in Berlin. This section is aimed at younger children, as the main exhibition can be too daunting for them to comprehend.
It is a moving and yet disturbing account.
The whole experience can be taken to another level by attending talks by concentration camp survivors. These are well worth a visit even though I found myself crying at the tales it made me more aware of the individual experiences and somehow made the whole era more real.
Also within the museumis a section on the ongoing persecution in Bosniaand Rwanda. Drawing on past experiences the museum highlights the plight occuring in these countries today.
I have visited the centre many times and am still overwhelmed by the emotion of the museum. To me it is a place of education which focuses on a sensitive subject but still manages to portray it in a poignant light.