Hundreds will gather Sunday for Holocaust Remembrance Day at Miami Beach’s Holocaust Memorial to remember the more than six million Jews who perished under the Nazi regime.
This year, however, those attending are being encouraged to come early or stay late to experience the long-standing memorial in a new way — through an app.
“It adds so much to the experience,” Sharon Horowitz, executive director of the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach, said of the app, which features Holocaust survivors telling their stories and historical footage. “We wanted the survivors to be a big part of the overall experience.”
Many of the survivors will be at Sunday’s ceremony — something they do every year — to retell their stories so that younger generations will never forget what happened from 1933 to 1945 when Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany. The ceremony comes ahead of Yom HaShoah, the Israeli name of the commemoration, which begins sundown May 4 and ends at sundown May 5.
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This year’s memorial will feature Miami real estate developer Tibor Hollo, whose family was captured by the Nazis during World War II. Born in Hungary, Hollo and his family were living in France when the Nazis sent them to an internment camp outside of Paris. From there, they were transferred to Auschwitz, the concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland where more than one million people, the vast majority of them Jews, died under the Nazis.
Hollo’s mother died in Auschwitz; he and his father survived.
Survivors say remembering the Holocaust is critical.
“We are dying,” said Allan Hall, a survivor who volunteers at the memorial. “The app will speak for us long after we are gone.”
The Holocaust Memorial’s sculpture of an outstretched bronze and stone hand with people clinging to it and the memorial wall can be explained with just a quick download.
On a recent visit to the memorial, Kate McLachlan, who was visiting from New Zealand, called the memorial and the accompanying app “impressive.”
“It brings it to life,” she said.
So far more than 6,000 visitors, students and teachers have used the app, according to the memorial. More than 130,000 people visit the memorial yearly.
Horowitz said the app was developed because “we began to notice the survivors getting older.”
“We wanted a way to continue to share their stories,” she said.
And so the memorial — with the help of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Guide 1, a technology company, and Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum — began the two-year process of taking testimonies and creating a user-friendly system available on Apple and Android systems. The app is available in several languages including English, Spanish, Creole and Hebrew.
The app and an accompanying video, which cost more than $500,000 to develop and was paid for by a state grant and private foundation money, uses historical footage and personal stories to serve as a guide at the memorial.
Hall, who was 9 when the Nazis took over Poland, said his mission is to spread awareness that “this can happen anywhere if we are not careful.”
“None of us want this to ever happen again,” he said.
If you Go
What: Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) Observance
When: 6:30 p.m Sunday, May 1
Where: 1933-1945 Meridian Ave., Miami Beach
Cost: Free and open to the public
For more information: Visit HolocaustMemorialMiamiBeach.org, call 305-538-1663 or e-mail info@HolocaustMemorialMiamiBeach.org.