By Joseph Berger
Each weathered piece of history set off a mental reel of flickering images for Roman Kent.
The boxcar stationed outside the entrance of the Museum of Jewish Heritage near Battery Park in Manhattan. It looked like the one that had brought him to Auschwitz.
“I woke up, and I was surrounded by a hundred people,” he recalled. “Thank God I was with my family, but I couldn’t move, and we were packed like that for four days and three nights. There was no pail for relieving yourself. Water to drink was a problem.”
Inside the museum, he spotted a caldron. It was the type used to make the thin turnip soup that was fed once a day to the famished, along with an ounce and a quarter of bread.
“You calculated when to get in line,” he said. “At the end of the line, you got more vegetables in the watered down soup, but you risked that they may not have any soup left.”
On May 8, the museum will open an exhibition to the public that will, unavoidably, also open wounds. Titled “Auschwitz, Not Long Ago, Not Far Away,” it will tell the story of that emblematic death camp, and the Holocaust, with 700 artifacts, most borrowed from Auschwitz, where 1.1 million people were killed, one million of them Jews. The traveling exhibition, largely produced by Musealia, a Spanish for-profit company, with the cooperation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, was first seen in Madrid over a 14-month stretch by more than 600,000 people.
Last Wednesday, three floors of the exhibition and its accompanying explanatory panels and film clips were in place, and the museum permitted a reporter to tour with Mr. Kent, a camp survivor and chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.
Mr. Kent, 90, and frail, was subdued, but resolute as he was escorted around the galleries.