SEATTLE -- The first museum in Seattle to honor the Holocaust opened its doors on Sunday, highlighting the stories of local victims and survivors.
The Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity is expected to draw about 15,000 visitors in its first year.
Peter Metzelaar’s story is among those told on the walls of the museum.
The 79-year-old moved to Seattle in 1997, a world away from his childhood in Amsterdam.
In 1942, Metzelaar was just 7 years old when the Nazi’s invaded Holland.
“My aunts and uncles disappeared. My grandparent’s disappeared. My dad disappeared,” he recalled. “I remember people being rounded up, put on trucks, who knows where they went.”
An underground resistance group helped Metzelaar and his mother, Elli, escape to a farm in the countryside.
“It was an older Christian couple who worked their fingers to the bone every day on a small farm and shielded us during Nazi raids,” he said. “Mom and I crawled underneath floor boards. The farmer built a cave in the forest that we hid in. The amazing thing is that those people – the incredible fortitude, humanity and courage they had. If my mom and or I were to get caught by the Nazis, those people and their entire family would be on a transport to a death camp. So at the risk of their own lives, they gave us shelter and that’s why I am here today.”
While Metzelaar and his mother survived the Holocaust, the rest of his family members were killed in concentration camps.
Metzelaar said he became emotional while looking at an exhibit on display at the museum – a glass case filled with personal items of those murdered at the death camp in Auschwitz.
“These glasses were worn by somebody,” he said, pointing at a pair of bent frames. “These shoes were worn by somebody. This was a little suitcases that somebody packed.”
He said he hopes the museum can help those who visit understand the true magnitude of what happened all those years ago, and learn an important lesson in tolerance.
The Henry and Sandra Friedman Holocaust Center for Humanity is located at 2045 Second Avenue in Seattle. For more information, you can visit www.HolocaustCenterSeattle.org.