Last week, on our adventure day, Tom and I visited the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beechwood, Ohio. This probably would not have been our first choice for an adventure day in Ohio. However, Mom and Dad and some friends of theirs, Bev and Bruce, wanted to see the Adolph Eichmann traveling exhibit and we agreed to go along.
The Maltz Museum was much larger than we expected. There are three main exhibit halls. One has religious judaica from the next door temple, although we were told it was only part of their collection. Another exhibit hall has the story of Jewish immigrants to Cleveland, starting in 1835, and their contributions over time. The third exhibit hall is the traveling display, which changes several times a year.
We went to see this traveling exhibit specifically. It was called “Operation Finale – The Capture and Trial of Adolph Eichmann.” Eichmann was known as the man who carried out Hitler’s “final solution” to the Jewish problem: the death camps. There was a short movie that introduced the death camps and a display that set up Eichmann’s background. Most of the exhibit was taken up with how the Israeli Secret Service went about capturing Eichmann.
Eichmann fled to Argentina after the war, aided in part by the Roman Catholic Church and the Red Cross. He used a false name and fake documents so they didn’t know who he was. He was discovered in Argentina when his son, who kept the last name Eichmann, started dating a Jewish girl whose father alerted the authorities. Eichmann was captured and transported back to Israel where he underwent a trial for “crimes against humanity” in 1960 and 1961. Found guilty, he was sentenced to death and executed by hanging on June 1, 1962.
The most interesting parts of the exhibit were two short films. The first depicted the capture of Eichmann in Argentina and the second was footage taken from his trial. During the trial Eichmann sat impassively in a glass booth, listening to the testimony against him. When he had a chance to defend himself, he used the old excuse, “I was only following the orders of my superiors.” The exhibit concluded with the places around the world where genocide is still a reality.
After spending several hours at the museum, we stopped by the David Berger National Memorial. This is a sculpture next to the Jewish Community Center in Beechwood. David Berger was a native of Beechwood who went to live in Israel and became part of the Israeli Olympic team that was killed in Munich on September 6, 1972. The sculpture is the five olympic rings broken in half, with one half added to represent David Berger. It is probably the smallest national park site we will ever visit! Mom and I went into the Jewish Center to get our Passport books stamped.
The Maltz Museum may not have been our first choice, but it was very interesting. We enjoyed our visit to the museum and our time with Mom and Dad and their friends.