There are five Holocaust memorials and museums across the state. The Florida Legislature just sent a bill to the Governor for approval to add another memorial in the Capitol city.
Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Coral Springs) is the bill’s House sponsor. He says creating the memorial is especially important, given the number of Holocaust survivors in Florida.
“Florida is home to the second largest Holocaust surviving population,” he said. “Everyone knows what the Holocaust is, but it was the systematic extermination of Jews in Europe. We’re talking about two thirds of European Jews were wiped off the face of the earth.”
Moskowitz says the victims included 1 million kids. Six million Jews, as well as five-million non-Jews, died.
“You know, the greatest threat to the Jewish population today might be Iran,” he added. “But, truthfully, the second greatest threat is that soon there will be no more witnesses to the Holocaust. Without witnesses to the Holocaust, without eyewitnesses to the tragedy, we will have no one to testify what happened. We will depend on museums and memorials and stories and books that were written.”
For Moskowitz, this is very personal.
“You know, as someone whose entire family escaped the Holocaust, specifically my grandmother,” he continued. “My Mom’s mother was part of what was called the ‘Kinder Transport’ out of Germany, and that’s where Britain smuggled 10,000 children. My Grandmother was specifically put into a boxcar with her sister and they were shipped to Britain, and it saved her life. Her parents were killed in Auschwitz and I obviously have similar stories on my father’s side.”
And, he says his grandfather had a tougher time, and won’t talk it to this day.
“There may be records in the Holocaust Museum of what happened to them, but I don’t even know because he refused to speak about it,” Moskowitz stated. “That’s how horrific it was. Imagine being a little boy and running away to another country, never seeing your parents, never seeing your two brothers, never seeing your sister again. He had no relatives left, his cousins, his aunts, his uncles, his nephew…the entire bloodline of that family was wiped out. He was the sole survivor.”
The bill is also important to Tallahassee Attorney Steven Uhlfelder.
“I believe this is one of the important bills this session, and I believe this is a proper way to recognize what they’ve been through as well as their families,” he said. “We have many memorials in the state, but there are no memorials here in the state Capitol. There are memorials in many states throughout the country, including Iowa, Ohio, South Carolina, Michigan, and I think it will be appropriate in light of the number of survivors and the number of people that were impacted, including my family, to have this memorial here.”
He also feels it will benefit future generations to come.
“And, I think it’s so important that we remember history, and that we’re going to have monuments up for World War II on the Capitol grounds soon and I think this would be a great complement in light of what happened during World War II during the Holocaust,” he added. “And, I also wanted to emphasize how important this will be with the thousands of teachers and students that will be coming to the Capitol and they’ll ask questions and one thing they’ll learn is never stand on the sidelines when something is going wrong.”
Uhlfelder has been working on this bill with both Moskowitz and Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood), who sponsored the Senate bill. And, Sobel says there will be a process to establishing the memorial.
“Senate Bill 716 would establish the statutory framework necessary to create the Florida Holocaust Memorial—it’s a memorial—on Capitol grounds, administered by DMS [Department of Management Services],” she said. “The memorial will be constructed and placed after it is considered the recommendations of the Florida Historical Commission.”
Last month, the Senate unanimously passed the bill. And, on Wednesday, the House passed the measure 116 to 1 with Rep. John Tobia (R-Melbourne Beach) as the only “no” vote.
Originally, Tobia didn’t oppose the measure because the House version had no fiscal impact. But, the Senate bill taken up by the House now includes $100,000 to help in the memorial’s creation. Uhlfelder says he’s also starting a Citizens’ group to raise more funds. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.
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