A Powerful – and Important – Exhibit

The Ronald Reagan Library exhibit “Auschwitz: Not far away. Not long ago.” is something everyone should experience.


According to the Reagan Foundation website the exhibit “Auschwitz: Not far away. Not long ago.” brings together over “700 original objects of great historic and human value: objects which were direct witnesses of the horrors of Auschwitz and the Holocaust.”

Auschwitz was the largest compound of its kind and was essential to carrying out the Nazi plan of the “final solution.” More than 1.1 million people died at Auschwitz, and an estimated 6 million Jews died during the Holocaust.

With historical guidance the exhibit takes ticketholders through the prejudice that was in place worldwide prior to the 1930s when Hitler and the twisted logic of the Nazis focused on ridding the world of all Jews.

This exhibit challenges not only what we think we know about the Holocaust but challenges us to face what humans can actually do to other human beings.

The exhibit pieces come from a private collector and are stirring. For example, it is one thing to see photos of the cement and barbed wire fence that surrounded the Auschwitz camp but it is another thing to see an actual part of the fence.

Around every corner of the exhibit is another artifact that takes one’s breath away: The blue and white, and gray and white, striped prisoner’s jacket and pants from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, 1941. The photo of thousands of shoes that were left behind by those deported to Auschwitz, and then one single red shoe enclosed in glass in front of that photo.

Photos by Mary O’KEEFE

There are also emotional recordings from survivors that remind us this evil could happen again.

The museum requires those who attend the exhibit to rent an audio tour, which is completely worth the cost. In one of the videos taken by a Nazi officer showing men being taken to a trench to be shot, a crowd of people is shown that consists of residents of all ages; most notable were several boys who were pushing each other for a better view. The recorded voice explained what the audience is seeing and then said that these are not strangers these people are watching die. These are their butcher, their pharmacists, their teachers. Those in the crowd were not brainwashed; “They chose to be there.”

With the increase of antisemitism throughout the nation, and the world, it is hopeful this history will educate those who wish to learn, and will also be a lesson that hate can be contagious. Hate can cause people who would never think to harm another to quietly watch injustice and to say nothing.

And that just because it happened once that does not mean it cannot happen again.

The exhibit runs through Aug. 13. Tickets are timed and limited; the time purchased is specifically for the Auschwitz exhibition and not for the main Reagan Museum and Air Force One Pavilion. Admission includes access to tour the main Reagan Museum and Air Force One Pavilion before or after the Auschwitz experience depending upon time of entry and arrival.

The museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Active military with ID and children 2 and under have free admission and do not require a reservation. Ticket costs are: Adult $32.95, seniors (62 years and older) are $29.95. Children 3 to 10 years old are $22.95 and from 11 to 17 are $25.95. Tickets include the price of the audio tour recorders.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is located at 40 Presidential Drive in Simi Valley.