New England Holocaust Institute and Museum to close doors at end of June
Photo Gallery | New England Holocaust Institute and Museum
NORTH ADAMS -- After 18 months of displaying artifacts from the darkest days of human history, the New England Holocaust Institute and Museum will close June 30, according to museum operator Darrell English.
A collector of Nazi-era objects for most of his life -- photos, propaganda posters, passports, Nazi documents, even uniforms of both soldiers and prisoners -- English said only a portion of his trove is on display at the museum at 41 Eagle St.
English said the items at the museum depict the rise of Nazism and the demonization of the Jews through the national media. Rare photographs of life in the concentration camps are there, as are records Nazis kept on Jews and prisoners.
It is estimated that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, the systematic campaign by the Nazis to imprison and exterminate Jewish citizens of Europe in the 1930s and 40s.
As much as the museum has been his mission, and as much as he would like to expand, English said his wife is retiring at the end of June, and they will no longer be able to carry the rent for the 650-square-foot storefront space.
"I'm just not sure we can do this anymore," English said. "Much of our money will have to go to other things."
But there is much more he still hopes to do.
English held up a roll of film he said is a propaganda film produced by Hitler's administration. The film encourages the extermination of the mentally disabled or handicapped because it costs too much to care for them. English said it should be converted to digital and translated so people can see the way the Nazis conditioned the populace to see inherently evil acts as normal and acceptable.
English said he is receptive to the idea of reopening somewhere else, in a more traffic-heavy area, where more people would have the opportunity to benefit from seeing pieces of the past.
"I don't want to give up on it here; this is my hometown," he said. "But there's just not enough people, not enough interest."
Mike Little, an English teacher at Clarksburg Elementary School, said it would be a shame to lose this educational resource.
"I think it's a loss because he's got a lot of great pieces of history you'd have to travel a long way to see, right here in town," said Little, who for years has borrowed artifacts and English's expertise for an annual eighth-grade Holocaust exhibit. "These are artifacts you get to see up close. He gives the artifacts a voice and brings it down to a personal level you can comprehend. Looking at a book is not quite the same thing."
English expressed a certain amount of frustration that more schools haven't turned to the museum as an educational resource.
"I should be the go-to place, and it perplexes me," he said.
Nevertheless, he will continue in his mission to collect the artifacts of a chapter of human history that should not be forgotten.
"I try to help people understand the worst time humanity has ever known," he noted. "This isn't your Uncle Henry's bottle cap collection. This is history in the raw."
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