County Supervisors Approve Creation of Holocaust Exhibit

The San Diego County Administration Building shown on January 12, 2021.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the creation of a Holocaust remembrance exhibit on county property Tuesday.

Supervisors directed Helen Robbins-Meyer, chief administrative officer, to work with the Jewish Federation of San Diego on finding a location for the exhibit.

They also approved giving $25,000 to the Jewish Federation to develop a year-long exhibit for an expected April 17 opening date.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said he proposed creating an exhibit because it’s needed in San Diego, which has no museum dedicated to the Holocaust — the genocide of 6 million Jews by the Nazis during World War II.

San Diego County is home to some 400 Holocaust survivors, according to the Jewish Federation of San Diego.

“There are lessons we must reaffirm and hold close to our hearts, because there is a real danger,” Fletcher said.

According to a statement from Fletcher’s office, “in 2021, the Jewish community in San Diego experienced 38 recorded incidents of antisemitism, including 14 cases of vandalism, 23 incidents of harassment and one assault.”

On April 27, 2019, a man shot up a Poway synagogue, killing resident Lori Kaye and wounding several others.

During Tuesday’s supervisors meeting, those in favor said a memorial was especially important in light of recent hate attacks.

“Education is the cure for antisemitism, racism and hate,” said Sandra Scheller, who curated the “RUTH: Remember Us The Holocaust” exhibit at the Chula Vista Civic Center Library.

As she spoke, Scheller also held up the dress her grandmother wore in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Michael Hopkins, CEO of Jewish Family Services, said his organization “compassionately cares for Holocaust survivors,” who lived through one of the darkest periods in human history.

He added that “lessons of recent years have taught us that it’s not enough to react — if we are not proactive against these forces that hurt and harm, they will continue to injure and even become deadly.”

Sam Landau of San Diego Generation of the Shoah said his mother was one of 11 children in a small town in Poland (now Ukraine), but only she and two siblings survived the Holocaust. Landau said his father and brother were only two survivors in their family.

“Sayings like `never forget’ and `learn from the past’ are just slogans, unless steps are taken to make them become realities,” Landau said.

Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting — in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday — survivor and San Diego resident Ben Midler received a lengthy period of applause from the gallery.

A Polish native who wrote a book about his experience and escape from concentration camps, Midler said that many U.S. citizens are still unaware of what happened, including those in his independent living home.

“Could you imagine people of 70, 80 years old not knowing (about) the Holocaust?” he asked. “We should never forget. Never.”

Also, before the meeting started, board Chair Nora Vargas asked for a moment of silence for those killed in weekend mass shootings in Half Moon Bay and Monterey Park.