Opening of the Slovak National Holocaust Museum at Sered
26th January 2016
By Trude Silman
It is fitting that Slovakia has created a Holocaust museum in memory of its large Jewish population that was destroyed and the story has to be told and remembered. Slovakia was a puppet state of the Nazi regime and treated its large Jewish minority very badly. More than 80% of its Jews were killed or died of maltreatment and starvation. The Slovak National Holocaust Museum in Sered with its Holocaust Memorial will remember the Jews, who perished and the Slovaks, who died resisting the Nazis and its allies. This Holocaust Museum with its permanent Exhibition and Education Centre will provide evidence of the Holocaust, its history and undertake the education of its citizens to value every individual's human rights, justice and strive for peace and eradicate conflict.
Dr Martin Korcok the Director of the Museum, came to Leeds and spoke at the HSFA fund raising event in December 2014 which raised £8000/11000 Euros, towards the funding of the Holocaust Memorial to be sited within the Sered Museum. Dr Korcok invited HSFA members to attend the opening. I accepted the invitation not only on behalf of the HSFA but also for personal reasons as Sered was the last place where my mother was known to have been alive.
Four members of my family and I travelled to Bratislava and on a cold, foggy January morning with snow on the ground and with about another 100 VIP guests were bussed to Sered. In just under an hour we arrived at what had been the concentration camp. Every one had to be identified and go through security before being directed to the biggest heated tent that I had ever been in. It had been erected on the Appelle Platz of the camp. The tent had beautiful white drapes, chandeliers, the seats for the VIPs had white covers and the remaining chairs stretched nearly to the back of the tent, where there were tall small tables with food and around the back wall were "drinks stations". The tent was filled with more than 700 guests, many dignitaries, security guards and recording equipment. The VIPs were given special badges, had reserved seats and also admittance to a special VIP tent for a hot buffet.
In the presence of the President of Slovakia the ceremony was introduced by Professor Pavol Mestan the Director of the Slovak National Museum of Jewish Culture in Bratislava and followed by speeches (simultaneously translated into English) from the prime ministers of Slovakia Mr Robert Fico, the Czech Republic H.E Mr Bohuslav Sobotka and the deputy speaker of the Knesset H.E Mr Yitzak Vaknin. The Head Cantor of Vienna Shmuel Barzilal sung Eli, Eli, a poem was read by a lady survivor and a male survivor sung the partisan song and another male survivor of several concentration camps including Sered told of his experience during the Holocaust. He was followed by recital of Kadish by Rabbi Baruch Myers of Bratislava (who had served at sometime here in Leeds) and finally the ceremonial ribbon was cut and the Museum and Exhibition declared open. The VIPs were then taken in groups of 50 to view the exhibition in the converted huts. While people waited to go to see the exhibition there were refreshments and the Bratislava Klezmer band played.
Hut 1 houses the permanent Exhibition and in front of most of the wall space are glass plates shaped like tall headstones three layers deep with a black glass plate behind them to enable reading the engraved names of the people from Slovakia, who perished. The majority of them were Jews. In the centre of the hut were artefacts and towards the back of the hut were posters and pictures relating to the Holocaust and Sered camp during World War 2.
Hut 5 contained photos of the camp from its construction in 1941 and conversion into a Museum. It is part of the Education Centre and at the rear of this hut is Dr Martin Korcok's office and on a wall nearby are plaques to the initiator and architect of the Holocaust Museum and acknowledgement of the sponsors of the project, where the HSFA name is prominently displayed.
The museum is not yet totally finished as the Holocaust Memorial in Hut 4 will be completed only later this year with an anticipated launch in June.
The Museum is now open daily and in the first week has had more than 1000 visitors.
It is a small museum compared to Yad Vashem but very worthwhile to visit.
There is much to learn about this terrible period of Slovakia's history.
If you would like to read more about the museum the following links may be useful: