Posted by Al Anile
 
Guest Speaker Howard J Swibel,  Attorney at Law
 
Howard Swibel described some of the challenges the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois, Inc. faced in developing the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.  Al Rigoni, then the Skokie Village Manager, expressed skepticism regarding the availability of Cook County Forest Preserve Land for construction of a parking lot.  But The Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois received extraordinary support and cooperation from County officials, who ultimately agreed to let them  build a parking lot in a grassy field on Woods Drive.  The Village of Skokie also extended itself by agreeing to serve as the nominal title holder of the land underneath the Museum.  That unprecedented accommodation enables the Holocaust Museum to qualify for State subsidies targeting museums situated on publicly owned land. Only the central Chicago museums, such as Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, etc. qualifies for those subsidies, because the land underlying those institutions is owned by the Chicago Park District. 
 
Howard discussed the challenge they face due to the shrinking population of Holocaust survivors.  They know from experience that encountering a survivor is the most impactful way of learning about the history.  With crucial help from Steven Spielberg's California-based Shoah Foundation, The Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois built a holographic theater in which visitors come face to face with a life-sized, life-like, three-dimensional holographic image which answers questions posed by the live audience. "The secret of success" Howard said,  "is that nearly a dozen survivors each answered close to 2,000 questions in a specially built studio on the campus of the University of Southern California. All of their answers were filmed and recorded,  then digitally indexed with a computer, and then attached to voice recognition software, thus enabling the survivors' holograph images to answer questions spontaneously addressed to them".  
 
The Holocaust Museum plans to debut next year an amazing virtual reality experience by which a Museum visitor can take a virtual tour of Auschwitz concentration camp, for example, guided by Museum President and Auschwitz survivor, Fritzie Fritschall.