The Sanditen/Kaiser Holocaust Center
Honoring Mildred and Julius Sanditen & Herman and Kate Kaiser
The Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art opened the Sanditen/Kaiser Holocaust Center in November 2020, an expansion which doubled the size of the Center and ushered in a new era for the Holocaust exhibit. Providing for state-of-the-art displays greatly enhancing the Museum’s Holocaust education capacity, it attracts visitors who wish to learn why and how the Holocaust occurred, and how to ensure it never happens again.The Center showcases over 250 artifacts from soldiers and survivors never before seen by the public. The horrifying events of the period are chronicled through the testimonies of five Holocaust survivors who made Oklahoma their home. Their first-hand accounts along with the objects and documents provide a walk through history and expose the effects of hate, local and worldwide. Also featured in the region’s only Holocaust Center are one of a kind art installations from Oklahoma and international artists.
Holocaust education is a prime mission of the Miller Museum; thousands of students and educators tour the facility for this purpose during the school year. Support from the Tulsa Section of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) an organization long concerned with both education and the preservation of local Jewish history, enabled the Museum to provide this important resource.
The Holocaust Education Center at the Miller Museum was dedicated in April 1995, fifty years after the liberation of Dachau by members of the Oklahoma 45th Infantry Division. The dedication took place during the Tulsa Jewish community’s annual observance of Yom HaShoah, the event that commemorates the victims of the Nazi genocide. The photograph, donated by a local veteran, depicts Dachau after liberation.
The National Council of Jewish Women Holocaust Education Center features an introductory panel with this text:
The word Holocaust means “wide spread destruction.” By the end of World War II, six million European Jews had been destroyed. Many other people were also killed by these systematic atrocities, including Gypsies, political dissidents, homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses, labor unionists and those with mental or physical disabilities.
European history is darkened by instances of antisemitism, but the Holocaust was unique in scope, barbarity and the concentration on the murder of one people (genocide). Moreover, antisemitism was given legal sanction by the German government, which devised a program referred to by the code name of “The Final Solution,” whereby the entire Jewish people were to be wiped out by means of persecution, enslavement and extermination.
Throughout the war, Jews were forced to leave their homes for imprisonment and death in concentration camps established by the Germans. Originally the plan was to eliminate all Jewish men, women and children by mass shootings; two million perished in this way. Four million more were killed by poison gas, starvation, disease or by forced labor in the camps.
By the end of the war, one third of the Jewish population of Europe had been murdered. A thousand years of European Jewish culture had been obliterated.
Oklahoma Holocaust Memorabilia
The Miller Museum Collection contains hundreds of objects donated by Oklahoma veterans who took part in the liberation of German concentration camps. Other artifacts were brought to Oklahoma by Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. Many are mementos of those who died in the Holocaust; others are dedicated in memory of them by their families. These Oklahoman’s have made their stories part of the Holocaust Education Center at the Miller Museum in order to bear witness to the terrors they encountered during the Hitler regime.
Pribram, Czech Republic
For over 45 years, The Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art has preserved and exhibited a Torah rescued from Pribram, Czechoslovakia, and provided to the museum by the Memorial Scrolls Trust.
In 1942, Jewish communities throughout Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia sent their religious objects to Prague to protect them from being lost, destroyed or stolen by the Nazis.Through this effort 1,564 Torah scrolls were saved.
After the war, the Torahs were left in storage, mostly abandoned until British philanthropists purchased the collection from the Czech government in 1964 and created the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust. From London, scrolls have been loaned to communities and museums around the world.
A Torah scroll is hand written on parchment in Hebrew, and contains the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, which are also the first five books of the Christian Bible. Judaism teaches that the Torah was delivered to Moses from God as a guide for life. A portion of the Torah is read every Sabbath in synagogues.
These preserved scrolls, which already held religious significance, are the last remaining religious objects connected to Jews murdered in the Holocaust.
Scroll number MST#1414
The survivor’s interviews shown at the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art’s Sanditen/Kaiser Holocaust Center were recorded in 1995 by Tulsa’s Michelle Wiens as part of the USC Shoah Foundation which has more than 55,000 interviews from survivors from 65 countries and 43 languages. The testimonies are preserved in the Visual History Archive, one of the largest digital collections of its kind in the world.
Arno Kahn (of blessed memory)
Born August 23, 1925 in Germany; Died October 29, 2009 in Tulsa, OK Arno experienced seven different concentration camps before being liberated at 19 years old. Arno spent several weeks in a Russian field hospital recovering from pneumonia. He then made is way to Berlin, and there worked at the American Army Hospital. In 1947, he immigrated to the U.S. where he met and married his wife. He was hired by the New York City’s Metropolitan Opera as a stage manager. However, once they discovered his voice he went from backstage to onstage. He performed opera professionally for the Metropolitan, and sang at many major opera houses in the U.S. Since 1968, Arno and his wife lived in Tulsa.
Born May 5, 1921 in Poland
Sherman experienced being moved into the Bialystok ghetto and three different concentration camps before being liberated from Blizyn camp at the age of 24 and moved to a Displaced Persons Camp. The Americans took Sherman to a hospital in Munich where he regained his strength. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1949, settled in Oklahoma City, worked as an alterations tailor, and attended night school. Four years later, he was offered a tailor position in Tulsa and moved. He has had his own custom tailor shop since 1962.
Leah Lapkin (of blessed memory)
Born April 26, 1917 in Vienna (Austria)
Leah experienced five different concentration camps before being liberated at 28 years old. Leah traveled with a group of camp companions by Russian train to Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany, and there she settled in Bamberg. A year later, she and one of her companions married. In 1952, with their young daughter and son, they immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Oklahoma City. Leah worked as a dress designer/maker and clothing consultant.
Harry Guterman (of blessed memory)
Born June 13, 1925 in Poland, Died September 13, 2018 in Palm Beach Gardens, FL Harry experienced being moved into the Łódź ghetto and two different concentration camps before being liberated from Auschwitz II camp at the age of 19. Harry decided to go to Palestine to join his father, and set off for a seaport of Hamburg. He made it as far as Bremen where he met two people who would change his life – a woman at the Jewish Community Council who he fell in love with and married, and an American Army officer with whom he became very good friends. Harry liked Bremen, and there, in a park, he opened a very popular and successful restaurant/cabaret. A few years later, Harry and his wife decided to immigrate to the U.S., where he resumed his friendship with the army officer, now in private business. As partners, they started Fabricut, a wholesale textile company, and located it in Tulsa.
Born October 29, 1932 in Łódź, Poland
Eva experienced being moved into two ghettos and three different concentration camps before being forced onto a death march until liberated at the age of 12. When Eva’s father was strong enough, it was decided they should try to make their way to the Allied Zone in Germany. They reached Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart, where he suffered a heart attack. The family was befriended by the appointed French mayor, who provided them with a furnished apartment and helped them open a small souvenir shop for American soldiers. Her father recovered, Eva attended school, the souvenir shop was a success, and her little brother was born. At the age of twenty, an American GI walked into the shop and into Eva’s life. They were married, and the couple lived in New York, Texas, Arkansas, and since 1961 in Tulsa. Eva worked as director of a Jewish nursery school, and in retail clothing. Since her retirement in 1998, she has devoted herself to Holocaust education: speaking to students, assisting educators, directing an annual interfaith commemoration, and forming “The Council for Holocaust Education.”