Holocaust Museums & Memorials: The Massuah Institute for the Study of the Holocaust
The Massuah Institute for the Study of the Holocaust is a museum and an international seminar center designed to evoke discourse on the significance of the Holocaust in our contemporary society and culture. The Massuah campus comprises the central school for teaching the Holocaust, which conducts seminars for young people, members of the security forces, and teachers from Israel and abroad.
The institute comprises archives, a library, dormitories, conference halls, and an amphitheatre - all designed to serve researchers and students; it also aims at encouraging the general public to discuss the connection between the memory of the Holocaust and central questions that are currently on the public agenda.
The institute’s main objective is to encourage preserving the memory of the Holocaust while placing special emphasis on its significance to our world, stressing profound questions about the essence of human beings that derive from studying the Holocaust, as well as the processes of shaping memory in Israeli society and its effect on our perception of the events of the Holocaust. Every year Massuah conducts a memorial assembly on the eve of the International Holocaust Day which designed for the diplomatic corps in Israel. Various events for the general public comprise publishing a yearbook, and conducting seminars and tours of the museum. Throughout the year young people, soldiers, students, and teachers visit the museum to learn about the Holocaust and its relevance to our lives today. During their visit they can participate in theoretical workshops, visit the exhibits and meet with Holocaust survivors.
“The Massuah initiative was designed not only to preserve the documentation and recording of history and the establishment of a memorial site for the tens of thousands of members of our movement, but also to serve as an educational center for the younger generation, now and in the future, a generation that will learn the history of the period and come to its own conclusions about the future of the Jewish People…” Moshe Kol, 1972
The Massuah Institute for the Study of the Holocaust was established in 1972 by members of Hanaoar Hazioni and Akiva youth movements at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak; the kibbutz established in 1938, during the Homa-u-Migdal period [Tower and stockade” - the communities established during the incursions and incidents in the years 1936-1939, known as The Arab Revolt].
After World War II the kibbutz accepted members who were Holocaust survivors from a variety of youth movements who came to Palestine. The idea of establishing Massuah began taking shape in the early 1960s and came from two directions; one began with the conference on heroism that was held at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak on the Holocaust Remembrance Day, initiated by kibbutz members, some of whom were Holocaust survivors. Additional initiators were members of Hanoar Hazioni who came from Zaglebie in western Poland. These members, called Nasha Groupa (our group), managed to escape Poland through Slovakia and Hungary in the midst of the Holocaust. Members of Nasha Groupa and members of Tel Yitzhak decided to establish a center and an amphitheater for events in the kibbutz. The cornerstone was laid in May 1965. The objective of the founders was to establish a memorial center for members of these movements. The prominent figure among the group members was Fredka Mazya. Unlike her contemporaries, Mazya envisioned a institution devoted chiefly to educational work and not the party, one that would hold in-depth seminars, whose objective would be to bring young people in Israel and throughout the world closer to the subject of the Holocaust and its meaning, and not concentrate on establishing a memorial site for members of one youth movement alone. The initiators managed to secure a budget for building the museum with the help of the then minister, Moshe Kol. The new institution began work in 1972, as an international seminar center, which includes a museum, an educational center, and archival center for the movement.
Massuah Museum is a historical and educational facility in which the exhibit halls also serve as learning centers. The museum building, situated in the middle of the Massuah campus, was designed in 1969 by the architect Kuba Gaver and the sculptor and designer Roda Reilinger. Its location and form—a towering structure in bare concrete—were meant to symbolize the centrality of Holocaust remembrance in Israeli society. The building is hexagonal; through narrow slots at the angles of its walls allow visitors to gaze outward. The interior of the museum has five levels; in its middle is a memorial site that rises to the height of the ceiling.
The exhibitions at Massuah Museum were designed as study centers in the exhibit halls. The exhibitions are interactive, inspired by the concept of an educational museum based on the principles of Educational Constructivism (structuring of knowledge), a philosophy especially well suited to exhibitions that target groups of young visitors. The Constructivist approach focuses on the imparting of meaning to the topics displayed. The goal is to expose visitors to a broad spectrum of interpretations of the personal experience that they undergo when they visit the exhibition. Exhibitions of this kind challenge visitors and induce them to move beyond their familiar and entrenched patterns of thinking in a way that is compatible with the ability to create new associations.
Massuah’s educational work, based on the Constructivist approach, builds a bridge between the conventional historical perspective of what happened in the Holocaust and the analysis of the meaning of memory. By so doing, it allows young people to subject their conceptions, attitudes, and beliefs about the Holocaust and what it means for their personal and national identity to new and relevant examination.
Massuah Museum also hosts revolving exhibitions on Holocaust remembrance and artists’ personal experiences.