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Dallas mourns passing of Holocaust Museum founder

Mike Jacobs with students at Whittier Elementary in San Antonio.
Mike Jacobs with students at Whittier Elementary in San Antonio.
Ginger Jacobs, used by permission, Mike Jacobs Holocaust Education Foundation

Before the Dallas Holocaust Museum came into being, a group known as Holocaust Survivors in Dallas formed with the purpose of educating others about their experience. They vowed that the horrors of the Holocaust would never be forgotten so that such horrors might never happen again. One of those survivors was Mike Jacobs who also founded the Dallas Holocaust Museum and Center for Education and Tolerance.

But his story doesn't start in Dallas. He was born in Poland and lost most of his family to the gas chambers of Treblinka, one of many NAZI concentration camps. In 1939, he was just a boy of 14 when he and his family were loaded into boxcars. He survived the camps despite horrendous conditions and brutal treatment because he was strong enough to work, but more importantly, he never gave up hope.

So it was that in the early 1950s, Mike Jacobs came to Dallas. Having regained his health - he weighed only 70 pounds when the Americans liberated Matthausen in 1945 - he led physical education classes at the Jewish Community Center and coached soccer. He a married a Dallas native, Ginger Chesnick, and began raising a family. By 1954, he has started his own business, Jacobs Iron and Metal.

By the early 1970s, Ginger Jacobs realized the importance of preserving the heritage of the Jewish community in Dallas. Along with Ruth Kahn, daughter-in-law to menswear mogul, E.M. Kahn, the two women founded what is today the Dallas Jewish Historical Society. Along the same vein, Mike Jacobs worked together with other Holocaust Survivors who had settled in Dallas to form their own group, and by 1984 they had worked out a plan with the Jewish Federation to build offices and exhibits - the first rendition of the Dallas Holocaust Museum - in the basement of the Julius Schepps Community Center. In 2004, having outgrown their space and their ability to host the thousands of students who visited each year, a new exhibit was conceived and brought to downtown Dallas in the historical West End.

Mike Jacobs served on the Board of Directors for the Museum as a Lifetime Director and had also served as Chairman. One of sons, Mark E. Jacobs, continues to serve on the Board of Directors. But what was most important to Mike Jacobs being there for the thousands of students who came through the Museum of field trips and answering their questions as they learned about the horrors of the Holocaust.

Mike Jacobs passed away this month at the age of 89. Part of Mike Jacobs will live on in his family. Part of him will live on in the Dallas Holocaust Museum as it grows in purpose. Plans have been made for a new freestanding museum that will, in part, demonstrate the strength and good of humanity when faced with the evil in this world. The Holocaust must never be forgotten. We must not stand by and let it happen again. The message of the Holocaust applies today as much as it did then. We cannot let evil rule this world.

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