Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center Officially Opens in Skokie,IL



SKOKIE, IL – The highly anticipated Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie, Illinois, officially opened its doors on April 19th, 2009, with a dedication and public grand opening ceremony featuring a keynote address by former President Bill Clinton.  Remarks were also given by Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, German Ambassador to the United States Dr. Klaus Scharioth, Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Sara J. Bloomfield, Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen, local Holocaust survivors, Museum leadership, and more.
The public grand opening event also included special video presentations by President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

In his message specially prepared for the opening of the Museum, President Barack Obama said, „This Museum, built with help from survivors and supported by so many others, will serve as a lasting memorial to all those who died in the Holocaust and those who lived through it. But, it will also help each of us understand what we can do to fight the many forms of injustice and cruelty that persist in our own time…There is no greater obligation than to confront acts of inhumanity. We each have a responsibility to stand up for our fellow human beings…That’s the lesson that school children will learn when they visit this museum.”

In her message specially prepared for the opening of the Museum, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, „We must never forget the millions who can not be here… in their memory, we must build memorials of understanding, of compassion and of action on behalf of human rights and of human dignity. The Illinois Holocaust Museum, with its call to remember the past and transform the future, is a memorial that will stand the test of time.”

In his message specially prepared for the opening of the Museum, Israeli President Shimon Peres said, „Once we survive, we should not forget. We have to survive our memories so it won’t be repeated. It won’t be forgotten. It won’t be ignored. It is a lesson for every person, for every child, for all humanity…I want really to express the blessing of our country, of our people, for this important occasion and for the support of the Chicago people, Jewish and non-Jewish. We shall remember together so we shall remain human beings with respect for human beings.”

The dedication event also included performances by Grammy® Award winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari, and the Soul Children of Chicago, a video message from Academy Award winning director, Steven Spielberg, and a reading of Maya Angelou’s „Still I Rise” by Chicago teenager Sabrina Walker, a member of the After School Matters program.

April 19 was selected as the date for the Museum’s dedication ceremony as it is the anniversary of the1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising—the largest revolt by Jews against their Nazi captors—and the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Week.  April is also Genocide Prevention Month. The overwhelming majority of the exhibition installation was completed before today’s ceremony.  However, work continues on installing the Museum’s permanent exhibit, which should be wrapped up over the next few weeks. The Museum will be closed Monday for the institution’s Inaugural Symposium, but will be open to the public starting Tuesday, April 21.

The 65,000-square-foot Museum was designed by award-winning Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman. Likely the last international institution of its kind built with the active participation of Holocaust survivors, the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center is the largest facility in the Midwest dedicated to preserving the memories of those lost in the Holocaust and to teaching current generations to fight hatred, indifference and genocide in today’s world.  All ceremony attendees were given vouchers to tour the Museum either after the event or during the month of May.

„This Museum aims to be an international institution for education and action in response to atrocities worldwide,” said J.B. Pritzker, the Museum’s capital campaign chairman. „We are truly honored not only by our distinguished program participants, but also to have so many representatives of the global community with us today through the Chicago Consular Corps.”

Beyond the atrocities of Nazi Germany, the new museum takes a global perspective by exploring issues of genocide and human rights around the world and throughout history. Through its public programs, traveling exhibits and Voices of Conscience lecture series featuring international human rights leaders, the Museum will work to raise awareness of and inspire action in response to the many atrocities that have taken place and continue to occur worldwide.

„Illinois was the first state in the U.S. to require that students learn about the Holocaust and other genocides,” said Richard S. Hirschhaut, the Museum’s executive director. „Many of the survivors and members of the Illinois General Assembly who courageously championed that mandate are here with us today. „

The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center will reach approximately 250,000 schoolchildren throughout Illinois and across the Midwest annually. Issues related to Darfur, Rwanda, Cambodia and other modern atrocities will be carefully woven into museum exhibits, curricula and field trip experiences. Learning materials will also be made available to teachers to integrate into their own curricula. In Illinois, specifically, students are required by law to learn about the Holocaust and other genocides; the new museum will help fulfill this mandate.

„There are no words to describe what this day means to us,” said Samuel Harris, Museum board president and Holocaust survivor. „This Museum will carry our legacy and serve as a beacon to the world, reminding each generation that we must never forget and we must never let it happen again.”

The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center is appropriately situated in Skokie because of the Village’s connection to the Holocaust. After World War II, Skokie became an enclave for many survivors and was the location of an attempt by neo-Nazis to march through the community in the late 1970s. A permit was first requested by the Nationalist Socialist Party of America to march in Skokie’s Birch Park in October 1977 and ultimately led to a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court. This event served as the catalyst for local area survivors to create the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois.

The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center was born of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois. Founded by Holocaust survivors nearly 30 years ago, the organization is dedicated to teaching about the Holocaust and the dangers of unchallenged hate. The organization taught school and community groups through a small storefront museum and speakers’ bureau since 1981.

For hours of operation or to learn more about the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, visit The Museum will be closed on Monday’s until July.