“Ground Zero 360” Special Exhibit Reminds Us All of the Heroes Who Sacrificed All to Save Others on 9-11

groundzero360Kevin O’Rourke. Moira Smith. Alan David Feinberg.

They were among the first-responders of the 9-11 terrorist attack in New York who sacrificed their lives rescuing others.

David Martin Weiss. Stephen E. Belson. Brian Grady McDonnell.

In all, 343 firefighters and paramedics of the Fire Department of New York; 37 officers of the Port Authority Police; and 23 officers of the New York Police Department perished in the line of duty.

The up close and personal stories of these first responders—and the tragic events of 9-11—are told in an incredibly intimate, emotional and inspirational new special exhibit at the Museum, “Ground Zero 360: Never Forget,” now open through Aug. 25. The New York terrorist attack killed 2,750 people at Ground Zero. First responders helped save about 14,250 people. About 17,000 people were believed inside the twin towers of the World Trade Center when the attacks began.

“You might ask how this exhibit…fits into our Mission, and it’s an easy question to answer,” Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins told a group of about 75 at a special opening night reception for the exhibit, which is free with paid admission to the Museum.

“The 9-11 terrorist attack provides lessons about both the destructive force of hatred and the redemptive power of tremendous heroism, in the face of adversity. There is no better example of the ethical response to hatred than the selfless acts of the 9-11 responders, who put themselves at risk to save others,” she said.

The exhibit displays the work of Nicola McLean, a New York-based Irish photographer who captured powerful images in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Her husband, Paul McCormack, was the presiding New York Police Department Commanding Officer of the 41st Precinct at the time.

Together, over the course of 10 years, the couple created the exhibit in remembrance of the victims of the attacks and in honor of the heroic actions of the first responders who worked tirelessly in the hours, days and weeks that followed.

“Not only did they rush into the crumbling buildings to help people to safety, they worked tirelessly to uncover the remains of victims to help their loved ones find some semblance of closure,” said Ms. Higgins. “Then, in the aftermath of the destruction, they participated in the massive cleanup effort to help the city return to some sense of normalcy, not knowing their exposure to ‘the Pile’ would have long-lasting health implications.”

Walking into the exhibit, a wall of flyers greets the visitor—flyers of smiling faces of the missing with desperate messages from loved ones to contact them—that were posted throughout lower Manhattan in the hours and days following Sept. 11. For those who recall where they were and what they were doing on Sept. 11, the flyers immediately transport them back to the events of that day.

While the exhibit includes a small piece of I-beam—part of 200,000 tons of steal that collapsed at Ground Zero in NYC—and incredible photographs of the destruction of the attack, it is the stories of first responders that imbue the exhibit narrative with hope, heroism and resilience.

The story of NYPD Patrol Officer Moira Smith, the only female officer of NYPD to die with 22 other officers responding to the attacks, is particularly moving. Her voice is heard on police audio recordings calling for immediate backup—tough to listen to, but compelling for their meaning—which are included as part of the exhibit.

Jimmy Smith, her husband and former NYPD Officer, attended the opening event along with Ms. McClean, Mr. McCormack and Michelle and Tom Mason, both retired NYPD command staff executives who were present at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the attacks. Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Dallas Fire-Rescue Chief Louie Bright III were special guests at the opening event.

As he began his remarks, Mr. McCormack paid tribute to local Holocaust Survivors who were in attendance. “I couldn’t think of a more wonderful place to be than to be with you tonight,” he told the survivors. “You embody what you inspire here. Your mission is to keep the memory alive and to have us never forget…We share that mission with you as we will never forget those who sacrificed everything to save others” on 9-11.

Sponsors for the exhibit include the Communities Foundation of Texas and the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of Dallas. Community Partners include the Center for American and International Law and the West End Association.

Be sure to join us at the Museum on July 23 at 6:30 p.m. for the film presentation, “9/11”. For more information visit,

-Chris Kelley for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance


For Magie Furst and her family, the lifeline to safety and freedom came through the Upstanders of Great Britain

Magie Furst

Magie Furst


The Museum’s current exhibit, A History of the Kindertransport, now through Feb. 28, features the story of Dallas resident Magie Furst and her brother, Bert, who were both saved through the British rescue operation. On Feb. 2, Magie told her story to a standing-room only crowd of 140 Museum members and visitors. This is the story she told.

In 1932, Alfred and Sida Romberg were proud parents of a daughter and son born just a year apart, living a wonderful life in the small German village of Astheim, near Nuremburg, where they owned a general merchandise store.

But a year later, following the appointment of Adolph Hitler as German Chancellor, the Romberg’s tranquil life became a nightmare. Before 1934 came to an end, Alfred Romberg was dead—a heart attack brought on by stress from aggressive perpetrators.

The Rombergs were upstanding citizens once beloved by the entire village. But all that changed when Hitler’s Nazi party came to power. The Rombergs were Jewish.

Following Alfred’s death, Sida Romberg was left alone to raise 5-year-old Magie and 4-year-old Bert. When the anti-Semitism worsened, Sida was forced to sell the store for a fraction of its value and moved the children to the larger town of Eshwege, Germany, where other family resided.

The years in Eshwege were brutal, recalled Magie, now 84.

“Those were bad years, because Hitler was in full force already. We had restrictions on going to school. We went to an all Jewish school until some of the teachers emigrated. And then after Kristallnacht (Nov. 9-10, 1938), we didn’t have school anymore…the Hitler youth, they went after us whenever we went out.

“I remember we went out to get a loaf of bread, and they took the loaf right out of my hand. They wanted to smash it on my brother’s head, but I stood in front of him, so I got the beating instead. I must have been eight years old.”

Following Kristallnacht— a series of coordinated attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria, carried out by SA paramilitary forces and non-Jewish civilians (the German authorities looked on without intervening)—Sida Romberg knew her children had no future in Germany and set out to find visas for them to leave Germany. At the time, Germany was still issuing visas to Jews and others who could prove they had relatives or a sponsoring organization in another country.

When her mother learned of the Kindertransport program, a rescue mission that took place during the nine months prior to the outbreak of the WWII, she seized the opportunity to send her daughter and son to the United Kingdom, which took in nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Nazi Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Free City of Danzig. Children of the Kindertransport were placed in British foster homes, hostels, schools and farms.

In an extraordinary stroke of good fortune, Sida Romberg received permission to work as a domestic servant in England.  The three of them prepared to leave for England together.

Saying goodbye to her grandmother, Magie said, was one of the most painful moments of her life. Her grandmother had been a source of stability and comfort, following the sudden death of Magie’s father, Alfred. Tragically, the Nazis would eventually remove her grandmother from a home for the elderly and deport her to Auschwitz, where she was murdered.

On May 23, 1939, Sida Romberg and her two children arrived in England, but once there were separated as Sida did not earn enough to support herself and her children.

Bert was placed with a wonderful family. Magie did not fare so well. “I became a cheap maid in a family headed by an abusive man,” she said. After a month of suffering, Magie was sent to an orphanage to live.

While the war years in England were tough, Magie said she, Bert and her mother were eternally grateful to the people of Great Britain. “They opened their hearts and homes to us when no other country—not even the United States—would do so,” she said.

Sida Romberg never gave up hope for reuniting the family, and in April, 1945, just a month before the formal end of WWII, the three Rombergs received visas to emigrate to the U.S.

“There is no country like the United States in this world,” Magie said.

Settling in the New York City metro area, the Rombergs thrived. Eventually, Magie would marry and accompany her husband in 1963 to the Dallas area. Three years later, Bert also moved to Dallas after receiving a great job opportunity. Wishing to be near the children she sought so valiantly to protect, Sida Romberg also made the move to Texas.

As she reflects on her rare experience as a rescued child of the Kindertransport, Magie is grateful for being spared the horrors of war even though the separation from loved ones was difficult. And, she feels obligated to share her story as a regular speaker before student groups—sometimes three and four times a week—who visit the Museum.

“We are supposed to be our brother’s keeper,” she said. “We need to make sure that children of the future never have to endure what my generation did.”

“A History of the Kinderstransport” exhibit is made possible by the generosity of Ann Donald Zetley & Florence and Howard Shapiro in Loving Memory of Martin Donald.

–Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum








Hope for Humanity Dinner Set for October 30

Father Patrick Desbois

Father Patrick Desbois

Father Patrick Desbois, President of the Yahad-In Unum Association, will receive the Museum’s 2013 Hope for Humanity Award. Local Holocaust Survivors will also be recognized.

Fr. Desbois, who has devoted his life to confronting anti-Semitism and furthering Catholic-Jewish understanding, will be honored at the Museum’s Hope for Humanity Dinner on October 30 at the Dallas Fairmont Hotel, 1717 North Akard Street. The Hope for Humanity reception starts at 6 p.m. Dinner begins at 7 p.m.

Fr. Desbois has dedicated his life to preserving the memory of Ukraine’s former Jewish community and to advance understanding of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. To date, his organization has identified 800 of the estimated 2,000 sites of mass burial.

Tickets will be $350 (limited availability). Table prices begin at $3,500. For further information, please contact Development Director Maria MacMullin at 214-741-7500.

A Play for the Ages: The Timekeepers Demonstrates What it Means to be Human

Actors Karl Lewis (Benjamin) and Jeremy W. Smith (Hans) bring an often forgotten story of the Holocaust to the stage.

Actors Karl Lewis (Benjamin) and Jeremy W. Smith (Hans) bring an often forgotten story of the Holocaust to the stage.

What divides us as human beings should not be stronger than what unites us. Yet, history is filled with examples where differences, especially in matters of truth and justice, have produced tragic results.

Conflict over what we share in common—and who we are as individuals—well, this is the stuff of compelling stage drama. Make the setting a World War II concentration camp during the Holocaust, at a Holocaust Museum, and the drama is groundbreaking.

Such is the case with The Timekeepers, a limited-run play now at the Dallas Holocaust Museum Theater on select nights through June 22. The subject matter is strictly for adults. Tickets are available online.

Directed by veteran Texas artistic director Joe Watts, The Timekeepers tells the story of a young-ish German homosexual and a conservative elderly Jewish man who are forced to work together in a camp, repairing watches for the Nazis.

At first, inmate #70649, a character named Benjamin played by veteran Dallas actor Karl Lewis, who wears a yellow star on his camp uniform, won’t even speak to his new colleague. Hans, inmate #2202, whose pink upside down triangle brands his character, played by actor Jeremy W. Smith, a SAG member with television credits, takes the rejection in stride, as though accustomed to it.

Fomenting—and sometimes mediating—the relationship is Capo, a petty thief and camp inmate who oversees the watch repair shop, played by actor Eric Hanson, who makes his debut theatrical performance in the production.

Benjamin was a highly regarded watchmaker in Berlin prior to his deportation. He is expert at repairing watches that Nazi guards confiscated from new camp arrivals. Hans lied about his mechanical abilities—he knows nothing about repairing watches—to avoid certain death as a failed laborer in a camp cement plant.

As is often the case in life where obvious differences overshadow commonalities upon initial meetings, time and humor eventually washes away prejudice and indifference and the two men discover each has a passion for a shared interest: opera.

The two men become friends and even rehearse scenes from an opera that they will perform at a show for the Finnish branch of the Red Cross who will be visiting the camp in a few days.

However, when the show is suddenly cancelled, their common passion for opera instantly disappears and pride and prejudice overtakes each again and erupts in a raw, disturbing, enlightening and all too familiar scene from daily life even today.

To say more about the play by Dan Clancey would spoil an incredibly impactful production by Theatre New West.

In introducing the play, truly a first-of-its-kind production for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins noted how the Museum is committed to telling the stories of all Holocaust victims.

“Homosexuals are among the Holocaust’s forgotten victims,” she noted. “The Timekeepers, while fiction, is based on a larger story and it allows us to bring the ‘forgotten’ into the light.”

The play continues Fridays and Saturdays, June 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. Talk back sessions with the director and cast will occur after Friday night performances.

By Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum

Paul Kessler: A story of perseverance

Holocaust survivor Paul Kessler and his mother hid in a pit behind a farmhouse for months until the Russians liberated the region in Slavakia. The farmer who hid them put his own life in considerable danger, providing them with food and keeping them safe until the area was liberated.


Today, Paul speaks to school children who visit the Museum and tells his personal story of survival, suffering, and hope. He talks about the civility shown by the farmer who was the perfect example of an Upstander. Support the DHM/CET so more children can learn not only the tragedy of the Holocaust and say, “Never again”.

North Texas Giving Day is Sept. 13. Donations of $25 or more will be matched through Donor Bridge. When you donate to the DHM, you are helping us teach students from across the Metroplex about the importance of  tolerance. Please help us reach everyone we can by visiting this link on Thursday!

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