Museum of the unimaginable in a place you wouldn’t imagine

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Museum of the unimaginable in a place you wouldn’t imagine

Neil Silver takes time out of shopping and dining on his Florida holiday, to teach his children an important lesson about the Shoah

You might question my idea of “fun” when I’m on holiday, but nothing beats taking my kids to visit a Holocaust museum wherever I am in the world.

It’s been easy to enrich my children’s education in big cities such as New York, Washington and San Francisco, so I was very pleasantly surprised on my recent trip to Naples, Florida, to discover that the Holocaust Museum and Cohen Education Center was about to re-open in a new location.

From renting a space of about 4,500 square feet in a shopping plaza, the museum has moved five miles after buying it’s own space of 6,000 square feet.

The UK could take a leaf out of the Americans’ book as the state of Florida requires teaching about the Holocaust in schools, so the museum expects to attract more than 15,000 visitors a year.

Curator, Cody Rademacher, told me: “Students in fifth, eighth and tenth grade either come to our museum or take part in a programme that is appropriate to their age.

“Our Jewish population is not as well-known as, say, Boca Raton, but we have a moderately sized community which is very supportive, including a number of survivors living in Naples who have donated artefacts.

“They want to reach the younger generations and help to teach the lessons of the Holocaust and inspire actions against bigotry and hatred in society.

“If you do not understand the ripple effects of the Holocaust it can be very costly for society and the world as a whole. We aim to use the lessons learned from the Holocaust to recognise what is going on in today’s society and hopefully prevent another genocide.”

The first thing that hits you when you walk into the museum is an amazing mural of diarist Anne Frank. The pictures which help make it up include local Holocaust survivors.

You then snake your way through three permanent galleries and a fourth gallery with temporary rotating exhibits – the current one telling the story of Holodomor, a Ukrainian genocide which was a famine carried out by the Russians.

One of the exhibits which made the most impact on me was a map of Europe at the time which detailed the Jewish populations, which showed that approximately 12 million people were murdered – half of them Jewish.

There was also a memorable “survivors” exhibit.

Of course, Naples has many other far less serious attractions, and the best way to see these is by taking the signature vintage trolley tour. This gives a great overview of the area and allows you to decide which places – such as the beaches – you want to return to at your leisure for a longer visit.

You are also spoiled for choice when it comes to restaurants, and I can offer two recommendations.

D’Amico’s The Continental is fine dining, and I can recommend the Tomahawk steak – if you have someone to share it with. Or if you fancy fish, then check out USS Nemo where the signature dish of broiled sea bass is also delicious.

After spending a few days in Naples I drove my kids up to Orlando to enjoy the many attractions on offer – proving that I really am a “fun” dad after all!

Neil’s recommendations 

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