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New Holocaust museum in Chandler plans to address other genocides

Valley residents will get the chance to see the Holocaust in a brand new light when a museum opens in Chandler in the near future with exhibits to depict past and present examples of prejudice and other genocides.

Steve Tepper, CEO of the East Valley Jewish Community Center, said Thursday at the Tempe campus there is no gold medal for suffering and no value in saying one's people suffered more than someone else’s people.

Tepper is collaborating with RSP Architects to build the museum.

“What we want to do is use examples from the Holocaust to compare and contrast with other genocides,” he said. “We believe the Holocaust is the best teaching example.”

He wants the facility to be more dynamic than an average museum, Tepper said at the discussion titled "Building a comparative genocide museum in Chandler."

“We looked at all sorts of different museums and examples around the world,” he said. “This museum will be unlike any other Holocaust museum."

Tepper said the museum is expected to cost $20 million and will include a 70,000-square-foot facility. It will also have a 350-seat auditorium, meeting space, classrooms and a courtyard.

“I estimate the project will take 12-18 months of construction,” he said. “I assume that there will definitely be delays.”

Tepper said the exhibits will start at ground level and visitors will make a three-story climb up a ramp as they progress through exhibits. The ramp will make the museum wheelchair accessible.

The museum will hold mostly Interactive exhibits and audio kiosks depicting real accounts by survivors. It will also have an orientation for visitors to promote a group experience. Walls will come to life with different images, quotes and videos to help people understand.

Tepper said he wanted to emphasize a group experience, because he felt it is more comforting for people to see shocking images and exhibits among other people.

“I think there is something powerful about a group coming together to do something positive,” he said. “We find there are a lot of conversations ignited by these sorts of themes.”

Tepper said “Never forget and never again” are some of the most important things to remember when learning about the Holocaust. He said he thinks people have done a good job at practicing “Never forget” but not “Never again.”

“Genocide still exists, and that’s one of the things we want to point out,” he said.

The museum will have a section based on genocide on a global scale to show that there is still genocide happening in present times.

Tepper said he doesn’t think he has a “Never again" solution.

“We are hopeful by creating awareness, we can affect certain parts of the population,” he said.

Volker Benkert, German language and history lecturer for ASU is collaborating with Tepper on this project.

Benkert said it is important to address intergenerational commemoration of trauma.

The museum will have an exhibit dedicated to Native Americans and their treatment during colonization making it unique and comparative to other Holocaust museums, Tepper said.

When Hitler was looking at ideas about how to go about establishing concentration camps, one of the things he looked at was the American system of Indian reservations, he added.

Tepper said there are a lot of similarities between the Holocaust and what happened to the Native Americans.

“All of these are parallels,” he said. “For us, this is something that happened here in America and something that was important.

History senior Joseph McManis said he thought the museum was taking an interesting stance.

“This isn’t something other Holocaust museums have been doing,” he said.

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @KelcieGrega

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