Collector Planning Holocaust Museum in North Adams
The former Papyri Books on Eagle Street will host a Holocaust exhibit featuring items from the collection of Darrell K. English. At left, part of his collection on display at Clarksburg School.
The New England Holocaust Institute will feature a curated exhibition of some of the countless Holocaust materials — photographs, posters, clothing, artifacts — that English has amassed over the past four decades.
"I can't just keep putting it away for no one else to see it," said English, who described the institute as something that can be an asset to the community. "It's a primary source material that needs respect; a showcase that people can take away knowledge from.
"If I set something up like this ... people can understand what this whole thing is about."
English wants to provide context to a horrific period in world history by offering an intimate experience in the former Papyri Bookstore that is neither cursory nor overwhelming to the visitor.
"People want to see three-dimensional items, it screams at you ... 'come and witness and take stock in this,'" he said.
While his items have been featured elsewhere, including on loan at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, English's dreams of a World War II museum in Berkshire County for his thousands of items haven't been able to lift off.
So he's decided to start small in the 650 square foot space in hopes of attracting an audience appreciative of his vast collection and touched by the stories those items tell.
"I'm reaching into my pocket and pulling out my cash in hopes that it might generate some interest," he said. "There's nothing like this in New England and Upstate New York."
He hopes the exhbit becomes a steppingstone to a home for his 10,000 piece-collection, one that will follow the roots of the war in 1931 to its conclusion.
English has been instrumental in the success of the Holocaust studies program at Clarksburg Elementary School, the only program of its type in the region, by providing historic materials. He has worked with Clarksburg teacher Michael Little and Rabbi Robert Sternberg, former director of the short-lived Hatikvah Holocaust Education Center in Springfield.
He's also trying to raise funds for a matching grant from Kickstarter for a film strip on Hitler Youth.
The small institute will expand upon and integrate to some degree the Clarksburg program.
The exhibit, "The Descent Into Hell," will start with the rise of the Nazi Party.
"It's how they treated not just the Jews, but everybody and show how it escalated," he said. "It's the corruption of youth and literature, how they nibbled at the ages of society until essentially ... there were no safe corners."
"They made laws limiting what people could do and can't do ... they marginalized to the point you threw your hands up in the air," English continued. "I want to show how it all happened and all the material I have that relates to this."
The museum is expected to open in February pending city approval. Admission will be free but visitors will be able to leave free-will offerings to help offset the cost.
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