Arts / Museums

10 Things You Need to See at Dallas’ Holocaust and Human Rights Museum — Inside One of the City’s True Treasures

A Powerful and Moving Sanctuary of Hope

BY // 09.07.21

Dallas is a great city, full of everything wonderful that life has to offer. The restaurants and bars are diverse and excellent, its green spaces and parks are among the best in the nation, and the rich cultural scene is, well, outstanding. Whether your passion is art, music, ballet, or the theater, Dallas’ cultural institutions are the envy of cities everywhere.

One of the Big D’s cultural riches is the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, which was founded in 1984 by Dallas-area Holocaust survivors. Its mission is to “teach the history of the Holocaust and advance human rights to combat prejudice, hatred, and indifference.” The verdict has long been in, and there’s no disagreement that the museum has fulfilled its founders’ vision.

If you haven’t visited the new building since its opening in 2019, or if it’s been a while since you have, here are 10 reasons to plan a day at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. From unique exhibits to features that are sure to enlighten, move, educate, and inspire, this museum is a must-visit in Dallas’ West End. There’s something for everyone. And taken as a whole, the museum comprises a blockbuster-worthy intellectual and emotional locus of learning and reflection. (Some of the exhibits have closing dates, so check the museum’s website when planning your visit).

Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum
Prepare to be amazed by the stories of the heroes who saved countless books and documents from the Nazis.

1. The Book Smugglers

The Book Smugglers special exhibition at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum tells the unbelievable true story of the heroic Vilnius ghetto residents who rescued thousands of rare books and manuscripts by hiding them on their persons, burying them in bunkers, and smuggling them across borders. They bravely used their cunning to safeguard and rescue documents that helped preserve an important legacy, one that continues to fascinate and teach.

The Book Smugglers is on view through January 2nd.

Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum
Imagine sitting with Holocaust survivors and asking them to tell you about their lives and experiences. You can do that in the Dimensions in Testimony Theater.

2. Dimensions in Testimony Theater

The Dimensions in Testimony℠ Theater lets you sit across from a Holocaust survivor and ask them questions about their life and experiences. High-definition holographic interview recordings paired with voice-recognition technology enable these incredible human beings to respond to questions from the audience, inviting one-on-one conversation. Space is limited, so reserve your seat at the museum’s front desk when you arrive.

Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum
Holocaust survivors on screen: Each tells his or her story in this moving film, one that moves and inspires audiences.

3. Voices of Courage, a survivor testimony film

Shown in a state-of-the-art Cinemark Theater, this 45-minute film features interviews with local Holocaust survivors and includes rare archival footage and photographs.

Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum
This boxcar, which was used to transport prisoners, serves as a reminder that we must never forget.

4. Nazi Train Boxcar

A true — and terrible — artifact of history, this was the first Nazi-era boxcar brought to the United States, and the first to be displayed in a museum anywhere in the world (It is located in the Holocaust/ Shoah Wing of Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum). It was acquired by Dallas-area Holocaust survivors in 1984, and is a testament to the horrors that befell so many. In 2020, the restored boxcar received the Gail Thoma Patterson Award for the outstanding restoration of a historic resource.

Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum
The evil that humans do to other humans: The museum’s Genocide Gallery reminds us that good must triumph.

5. Ten Stages of Genocide

The Ten Stages of Genocide Gallery at Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum features monumental art installations that depict historical and contemporary genocides through Dr. Gregory Stanton’s Ten Stages of Genocide. Further explore each genocide through graphic novels created for the museum.

Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum
We all have stories, and the ones told by Jewish immigrants to Texas are full of struggle, sadness, joy, and life.

6. “New Lives, New Homes” 

This mural, exhibited at the end of the Holocaust/Shoah Wing, tells the stories of Holocaust survivors who ended up settling in the Dallas area. Their travails, adventures, desires, and accomplishments are part of Texas history and culture, and you’ll admire and respect these testimonies.

Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum
If you want to get up close and personal with true heroes, make sure you visit the museum’s Texas Upstander Wall.

7. Texas Upstander Wall

Celebrate Upstanders from Texas and individuals who stood up against injustice and changed the world by doing so. They were face to face with terrible humanity, but their inner strength and dedication to our better angels prevailed. We owe them much.

8. Beyond Tolerance Theater

The Beyond Tolerance Theater inspires visitors to confront their own biases. In this interactive space, visitors learn about hidden bias and consider responses to it. The human brain is a thing of mystery, and when emotions and the heart get involved, well, that’s when some interesting things happen. You won’t think in the same way once you’ve experienced this mind-blowing exhibit.

Surls sculpture
James Surls’ “This Place, Everywhere” evokes, the past, the present, and the future, and makes one ponder what they all can mean.

9. This Place, Everywhere

James Surl’s sculpture This Place, Everywhere (2019) graces the museum’s beautiful courtyard. Its flowers — each of which has six petals — represent the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust. The 18 flowers represent Chai, the Hebrew word for life, whose letters add up to 18. Eighteen interspersed eyes look down at the past and what was lost, and to the skies to envision a better future.

10. Holocaust / Shoah Wing

The Holocaust / Shoah Wing (“Shoah” is Hebrew for “catastrophe”) explores the savagery of the Nazi Einsatzgruppen, demonstrating the hatred that underpinned the acts of murder and terror the groups carried out. Visitors can explore and learn about the events that culminated in the so-called “Final Solution” and the industrialized killing that took place in Nazi death camps.

Holocaust Wing
The Holocaust /Shoah Wing takes visitors on a journey full of struggles, evil, heroism, and history.

Yes, Dallas is a city full of wonder, learning, excitement, culture and heart, and the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum is one of the city’s shining beacons of light.

What: The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum

Where: 300 N. Houston Street, Dallas, 75202; 214-741-7500

When: Open Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 am to 5 pm

To learn even more about the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum and its important mission, check out its full website.

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