TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Off U.S. Highway 41 in Terre Haute sits a local museum with global connections.
CANDLES, Indiana’s only Holocaust museum, has served as an educational tool for people both in and out of state since it’s opening in 1995.
From the building being destroyed by arson, it’s founder passing, and now the COVID-19 pandemic; the museum has faced unimaginable challenges. However, staff continues with big plans for the future.
After stepping inside, visitors will see vivid images, videos and stories of arguably the greatest atrocity the world has seen.
“The more we can tell the story, not only of Eva, but of other survivors and of the Holocaust in general, the more we feel like we can protect the world from ever having those atrocities happen again,” Executive Director Troy Fears said.
To understand the museum, it’s important to know its founder. Eva Kor and her family were sent to Auschwitz in 1944. Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, were liberated after nine months in 1945.
They were the only ones from her family to survive Auschwitz.
Years later, she married fellow Holocaust survivor and relocated to Terre Haute, Indiana.
Learn more about Eva Kor and her story on our website.
Decades after her liberation she decided to forgive. In an interview years ago, Eva Kor said choosing to forgive was key in her growth as a person.
‘We have to look at what do we want out of life? To live free and enjoy life. Being angry has never accomplished any of these things. Getting even has never healed a single human victim,” Kor said.
Offering a unique experience, CANDLES allows visitors to closely relieve this experience. The tour starts with the “Choices Exhibit,” it allows visitors to answer how they would have handled certain situations.
“We want everyone to know if different choices were made 75-80 years ago, we might not be here talking about the Holocaust,” Leah Simpson, Education Director said.
After Choices, visitors will experience the “Rise To Power” exhibit. It highlights events leading up to the Holocaust.
“It didn’t happen overnight. There were small simple steps along the way that just built,” Simpson added.
Next, graphic images and illustrations provide the backdrop for the dehumanization section. They showcase how prisoners lived in barracks, and helps viewers understand the ideology behind ghettos and concentrations.
Lastly, the liberation exhibit showing how prisoners were able to survive, followed by the several bodies of military that helped liberate concentration camps.
To better resonate with each exhibit, carefully chosen artifacts align the walls. They include a prisoner’s uniform and letters from Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.
“We are very much a story driven museum. But, we do try to be very particular about the artifacts we display. The artifacts have to really give value to what all you’re learning,” Fears said.
While exhibits at CANDLES highlight Kor’s life, her son, Alex said this museum serves many purposes.
“One of the things the museum did for my mother, it allowed her a platform to talk and discuss things. What people don’t realize it was very therapeutic for my mother. When she founded the museum 26 years ago, she was still kind of evolving,” Alex said.
Eva Kor passed away in July during a trip to Auschwitz.
Since her death, the museum has taken steps to preserve her story, while offering more digital experiences.
Visitors can now interact with Eva and 11 other survivors through a hologram question and answer session.
“Only a few in the country of the dimensions and technology are even around. To have that here at the CANDLES Holocaust Museum is a real benefit to the museum and again a benefit to the Wabash Valley,” Fears said.
As the museum begins to re-open, staff is anticipating to welcome new exhibits and speakers for all to experience.
“People should come to CANDLES to truly learn about themselves. That’s what it comes down to,” Kor said.
More information about CANDLES can be found online.