Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Holocaust and Intolerance Museum of New Mexico

The Holocaust and Intolerance Museum of New Mexico, founded in 1998 and opened in 2001, is dedicated to combating hate and intolerance and promoting understanding through education. The exhibits illustrate the history of the cruelty of mankind caused by prejudice and hate on a global, national and local level, culminating in the most unspeakable of horrors, the Holocaust. 
Former German officers’ quarters

Unique in North America, we include exhibits not only on the Holocaust, but also the Native American cultural genocide; Armenian, Greek, and Rwandan genocides, and slavery in America. Artifacts, memorabilia, pictures, artwork, and documents are on display. A lending and research library, now in the developmental stages, soon will be available to educators and students. In addition to a speakers’ bureau, our knowledgeable docents address thousands of school students who visit the museum each year. 

A generous grant from the McCune Foundation funds transportation costs for these field trips. We have sponsored a number of events designed to build bridges of friendship and understanding across diverse cultural groups. Also, once a month, on the third Sunday afternoon at 2, museum volunteers conduct a discussion group called Courage to Confront. There is no charge for admission to the museum; donations are appreciated.

The Flossenbürg Flag
Most folks know of the Navajo code talkers and also the heroism of New Mexicans in the Bataan Death March during World War II, but only those who have visited the Holocaust and Intolerance Museum of New Mexico have seen the Flossenbürg Flag. There is only one in the entire world, and it is proudly unfurled at 616 Central Avenue SW, Albuquerque.

This likeness of the United States Flag (with 48 stars, as is pointed out to school children) amazingly was created by prisoners of the Nazis in the Flossenbürg work camp, in Germany, where inmates labored in a stone quarry and in the manufacture of munitions and arms. The flag’s background and stars and stripes most likely were painted over what was once a German flag.
Flossenbürg Castle in background            

The war’s end was rumored, and inmates, not knowing who would liberate them, created three flags: a Russian, a British, and an American. It was the Americans who marched into the camp on April 23, 1945. Horrified, General Patton ordered town residents to clean up the makeshift graves left by the Nazis rather than making his soldiers do it.

In May of that year, a Medical Collecting Company, Third Army, entered the camp. Roy Shaffer, whose life journey eventually took him to Albuquerque, noticed that no one had claimed the flag, so he was allowed to remove it and bring it back to the United States. He displayed it often on July 4th to make sure all who passed by would never forget the horrors of World War II. He donated it to the Holocaust & Intolerance Museum soon after it opened in 2001. The following is an excerpt from a draft of Roy Shaffer’s memoirs:
Roy Shaffer: My Jeep, named for my fiancée.

“The inmates at Flossenbürg must have had some intimation of the approach of US troops. In secret they fashioned three flags, one each for US, UK and Russia. Then when the German guards left (by flight or by fight; I never found out), the flags were draped on the barbed wire perimeter fence to welcome the liberators. The flags were made mainly of red Nazi banners (minus the swastika) with white and blue colors superimposed in appropriate pattern. In those days at Flossenbürg everything was in turmoil, so I cannot recall how the US flag fell into my possession. But I donated it to the Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico in Albuquerque where it is on display.”
Dr. Roy D. Shaffer in front of the Flossenbürg Flag

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