Virginia Holocaust Museum Director Turns 75
Tomorrow, the director and one of the founders of Virginia’s Holocaust Museum will be 75 years old. He almost died at the hands of the Nazis when he was eight, and he has spent much of the life he was spared, teaching tolerance to new generations. Charles Fishburne talks with Director Jay M. Ipson.
Ipson: Well, as you go through the Museum, you will be brought to a picture of my mom and me…
He’s almost 75, and once again Jay M. Ipson is teaching tolerance to a group of Oak Knoll Middle School students at the Virginia Holocaust Museum, where visitors can see how Jews lived, and died at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. Ipson was almost one of them.
Ipson: The Germans came and said they were looking to make more room for us, and they were going to deport some of us to Riga, Latvia, and Estonia. They grabbed up my mother and me, my grandfather, my grandmother, two uncles and an aunt, who were home from work, and took us in line to be deported. It wasn’t to relocate us, it was to execute us. In the same line that I was with my mother, where a Jewish policeman pulled me out of line, he knew my father, and said I should go home my father would be looking for me. I insisted mother should go with me, we’re the only two out of 5000 that survived.
Fishburne: Show me where you are in this line.
Ipson: I’m right here. And that’s my mother, behind my grandfather. And this is another picture here.
At least six million Jews died during the Holocaust. Ipson help found this museum in 1997 to try to turn evil into good and teach the decency remains the great anidote to inhumanity.
Student: What impressed me most was the model of where Ipson and his mother, father, and the other ten people that lived inside the potato hiding place.
Student: When they were killing their pets and their synagogue. Where they were basically just breaking them down mentally and physically.
Student: I think it was interesting how the Jews who lived in the Holocaust had to live underground for six months and then come into sunlight.
Student: Maybe that one person is getting bullied or something, and everybody else is just going along with it, but probably, a lot of people who are doing it are just doing it to fit in with the other people ‘cause they don’t want to be bullied or anything.
As many as 300 school children a day, and visitors from throughout the world come here, to learn not to let this happen again.
Visitor: Coming here, has just been, every year tremendous because I just think they do a wonderful job here of taking an horrific event and conveying that information to kids this age, where it’s very meaningful, and appropriate, and it’s just a good museum. It’s really done well.
Ipson: Whenever visitors come in, we are gratified that our mission statement, “Tolerance through Education”, is paying off. The kids are going to learn to become better neighbors, they’re going to learn to be better citizens, and they’re going to teach their friends, and hopefully in the future their children what it means to be a good neighbor.
Jay M. Ipson, Director of the Holocaust Museum, will be 75 years old tomorrow.
Charles Fishburne, WCVE News