About a month ago, the polemic flared up after Yaakov Baruch, a Minahasa businessman of Jewish descent, opened the first Holocaust Museum in Indonesia, as well as Southeast Asia.
Some Muslims and Islamic mass organizations, including the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), at that time criticized Yaakov’s move and urged that the museum and exhibition of Holocaust photos in Minahasa, North Sulawesi be closed.
But the misunderstanding began to lessen. The Jewish rabbi at the Shaar Hasyamayim Synagogue explained that the museum had nothing to do with Israel. He also repeatedly emphasized the attitude of the Jewish community in Indonesia which continues to support the position of the Indonesian government which is not yet willing to open diplomatic relations with Israel.
The inauguration of this museum at the end of January coincided with International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The German Ambassador to Indonesia Ina Lepel was also present and delivered a speech.
Yaakov Baruch to VOAMonday (28/2), said the number of visitors to the museum, which operates from Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 6 pm, continues to grow.
“Nowadays the number of visitors can be more than 20 people in one day,” said Yaakov.
The Holocaust Museum has a building area of 48 square meters. Currently in the museum on display 19 photos of events before, during and after the Holocaust. These include photos of a cleric in Paris who saved 500 Jews, six Albanian Muslims who saved 2,000 Jews, and an Indonesian who saved Jews in the Netherlands.
According to him, visitors to the Holocaust Museum are diverse, mostly local residents but there are also foreign tourists or guests from Jakarta who are visiting Manado. There are visitors who have been observing the history of the Holocaust for a long time, there are historical enthusiasts, and there has also been a visitor wearing a Nazi T-shirt. So far, their response has been positive, and it’s not uncommon for some to visit them several times.
“More than half of the visitors, young people who came, I asked the reason because the news was excited,” he said. But guests aged 40 and over have been to Auschwitz and Yad Vashem (Jerusalem Holocaust Museum) camps,” he said.
Yaakov stressed that more than half of visitors know nothing about the history of the Holocaust. “There are goosebumps, crying, all kinds of things (their expressions). So I am currently educating because many young people idolize Hitler,” he said.
Yaakov said the Holocaust was a human tragedy. If someone doesn’t like Israel, it doesn’t mean they are defending Hitler. “If they sympathize with Palestine, it doesn’t mean they support the massacre of Jews,” he said. The museum teaches lessons about the dangers of racism and hatred, he added.
This Holocaust photo exhibition will last for one year. Exactly on January 27, 2023, the concept of this museum will be changed by adding more artifacts. There are also plans to showcase the genocidal situation in Myanmar and in other countries, not limited to the genocide of Jews alone.
“In addition to the Holocaust, I created this museum as a center of tolerance,” said Yaakov.
Communication with MUI
Head of Foreign Cooperation and International Relations of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Sudarnoto Abdul Hakim explained that he had communicated by telephone with Yaakov Baruch, founder of the Holocaust Museum in Minahasa.
Sudarnoto said that from the beginning the Holocaust Museum seemed to provide opportunities for certain groups for the sake of cultural diplomacy in which Israel is behind it. In the conversation, Yaakov again denied that the Holocaust Museum had anything to do with Israel or Zionism.
“It is also necessary on the part of the community in Minahasa, including the government, better to look back. Do not let it be used by other forces that are more intensive so that it is detrimental to the Jewish community itself and also detrimental to many people,” said Sudarnoto.
For this reason, he continued, the Forum for Religious Harmony should also hold a dialogue, not only to test acceptance or rejection of the existence of the Holocaust Museum but to look at it more critically so as not to harm all parties.
Sudarnoto still thinks that the Holocaust Museum is not suitable for educating the Indonesian people. “That the issue of intolerance is dangerous, yes. But without the Holocaust Museum we have also implemented those values,” he said.
But he understands that the Holocaust is a crime against humanity that is universal, and empathizes with Jews who are victims of the Holocaust.
Even so, he assessed that the existence of the Holocaust Museum did not need to be continued. The historical education needed by the Indonesian people is a matter of nationalism, said Sudarnoto. [fw/em]