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Florida Holocaust Museum confront ignorance with 'Trunks of Hope'

Teachers can access and request free learning materials through the Florida Holocaust Museum’s website and Facebook page.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A recent and alarming new study that found almost two-thirds of millennials and Gen Z-ers don’t know that 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. 

And nearly half could not name a single concentration camp from World War II.

The Florida Holocaust Museum located in St. Petersburg hopes to address that deficiency by providing educators the tools they need to teach history and tolerance.

“I think that headlines like that are always alarming,” said Florida Holocaust Museum Executive Director Elizabeth Gelman. “And always a good wake up call.”

Gelman was shocked when she heard the results of a recent survey and just how many young people are unaware of the scope and horror of the Holocaust.

“If you live in an area and there aren’t any Holocaust survivors, how do you have that experience?” Gelman said.

The museum is now collecting donations to expand its “Trunks of Hope” program. It provides teachers and students free of charge ready-to-go trunks filled with age-appropriate Holocaust education materials like videos, books and learning guides that teach not only the history of the Holocaust but lessons in tolerance and how to confront hate and prejudice.

“Today as we are seeing such a rise of racism and anti-Semitism and other identity-based hatreds, it’s important to understand that the people who hate one truly hate all,” Gelman said.

The museum is also working with the Florida Department of Education to expand Holocaust education in public schools through a new resource it plans to formally unveil next week -- a digital version of its trunk program for virtual and e-learning.

“So, rather than physically filled to the brim with resources,” Gelman said. “This is filled to the brim with links.”

The Florida Holocaust Museum itself is currently closed due to COVID-19 but the education effort continues. They’re offering virtual tours, digital access to their collection database and even helping to set-up live zoom interviews with Holocaust survivors.

Teachers can access and request the free materials through the Florida Holocaust Museum’s website and Facebook page.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed the “Never Again Education Act,” which seeks to expand Holocaust education in the US.

Florida is one of 12 states that currently requires schools to teach the history of the Holocaust.

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