The Holocaust Museum You’ve Never Seen
07/29/09
Staff Writer
Photo Galleria: 
Tucked away in a corner display case in the library at the Selden campus of Suffolk Community College is a porcelain serving dish. Below it is a porcelain statue. Nice objects, to be sure. But a printed explanation affords them a different gravitas: “Made by slave laborers at the Dachau Allach factory.” And there is also a catalogue in which the porcelain statue is pictured along with porcelain horses and other pieces of art. SS officers used these catalogues to order the pieces they liked. On an opposite wall is a pair of handcuffs, a metal chain and another implement used by Nazis to torture their prisoners. And next to it is a whip used in a Nazi slave labor factory. These and other Nazi-related artifacts are on display on the second floor of the library that has been sectioned off and called the Suffolk Center on the Holocaust, Diversity and Human Understanding. Although it has been here since 2004, its executive director, Steven Schrier, said it is one of the little-known treasures in the county. Suffolk Community College created it but has since spun it off as a separate not-for-profit organization. “The school still provides us with staff, space and modest funding of $17,000 a year,” Schrier said. Both Schrier and Steve Klipstein, the center’s assistant director, are professors at the college. Klipstein said he is one of a half-dozen teachers who teach the Holocaust on the college’s three campuses — Selden, Brentwood and Riverhead. He said he teaches about 500 students each semester, most of whom are not Jewish. Although the center now has only three small rooms in which to display its collection, Schrier said there is talk of more than doubling its size in coming months by pushing out a wall. “We have more material than we can display,” he said, pointing to boxes on the floor containing photographs of Hitler and other Nazi leaders. “My plan is for that [expanded] area to also have classrooms so that Holocaust courses could be taught near the material and so that film series and lectures could be held there,” Schrier said. “We want to create a more comprehensive package of activities for groups that visit.” Because of its limited space, the center has been forced to mount major exhibits elsewhere on campus. Andrew Liput, a former Huntington, L.I., attorney who once taught law at the college and who Schrier said donated about 90 percent of the collection, said he has a similar vision for the center. “I want it to be a study center so that people will understand what happened,” he said. “I’ve been a teacher, and one of my methods of teaching is to go beyond talking. You learn more through multifaceted ways — hands-on and audio recordings. Liput said he began assembling his collection in 2000 and over the next two years amassed more than 600 original Nazi-era artifacts. Although some were donated, he said he bought most of it from other collectors and former American soldiers and their relatives who had been keeping them in their homes since World War II. Liput said he donated about three-quarters of his collection to the center and the rest to the Drew University Holocaust and Genocide Center in Madison, N.J. He now lives in Mountain Lakes, N.J. The idea for the collection, he said, came after he learned that many people were unaware of what happened in the Holocaust and that many survivors were reluctant to talk about it. “I came up with the idea of not only creating a financial legacy for my kids but creating a lasting legacy that would be educational and that future generations could appreciate,” Liput said. “I know there are a lot of Holocaust museums around, but it dawned on me that there was nothing in Suffolk County that dealt with Holocaust issues. ... As far as I am concerned, you can’t err on having one of these centers in every part of America.” Because the center is in the school’s library, visitors must make an appointment to see the center by calling (631) 451-4700.  

Last Update:

03/06/2012 - 21:21

Comment Guidelines

The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.