Houston and the Holocaust

What to Do, See, and Learn at Holocaust Museum Houston

HMH features fascinating new temporary exhibitions, special events, and one of the largest research libraries in the country.

By Claire Anderson Edited by Geneva Diaz

 Holocaust Museum Houston is now the fourth-largest Holocaust museum in the country.

Originally founded in 1996 by Holocaust survivor and local Houstonian, Siegi Izakson, Holocaust Museum Houston (HMH) is now the fourth-largest Holocaust museum in the country. Its goals are to educate visitors about the sobering realities of the Holocaust and memorialize its victims, while also bringing awareness to other international examples of genocide and human rights violations throughout history. 

With a newly expanded campus in the heart of the Museum District, today the museum has five permanent exhibitions featuring photographs and artifacts from the Holocaust, including authentic concentration camp uniforms and recovered diary pages written by Jewish teenagers during the war. Each exhibit features a new interactive technology that allows viewers to see a fully bilingual information display in both English and Spanish. 

Just down the street from other Museum District standouts, like Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Houston Museum of Natural Science, HMH offers an equally compelling visitor experience with a number of special events like film screenings and panel discussions. And, with its permanent and temporary exhibitions of art and history, plus one of the pre-eminent research libraries dedicated to Holocaust and human rights studies in the U.S., there’s a lot to explore at HMH.

Here is a handy visitor’s guide to all that HMH has to offer.

What kinds of exhibits can I see at Holocaust Museum Houston?

HMH offers five permanent exhibitions across its three-story campus, and regularly holds temporary exhibitions focusing on issues like the Holocaust, contemporary human rights, and local history. 

The museum’s collection of WWII-era artifacts range from large historic items in the Holocaust Gallery (also called Bearing Witness: A Community Remembers), including a railcar used to transport prisoners to concentration camps that visitors can actually step inside of, and a Danish rescue boat. Visitors can also see small handfuls of soil from some of the most infamous concentration camps, such as Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and Dachau, displayed beneath several memorial walls throughout the museum commemorating the names of individuals killed in the camps. 

The new exhibition called Dimensions in Testimony at HMH.

Image: Jeff Fitlow

The Holocaust Gallery also features the innovative holographic technology of Dimensions in Testimony, a project by USC Shoah Foundation, which displays interviews with real-life Holocaust survivors. These pre-recorded interviews are projected onto HD video screens throughout the gallery that visitors can interact with, allowing them to “speak” to the survivors by asking questions about the Holocaust and receiving answers in real-time.

At the Rhona and Bruce Caress Gallery, And Still I Write: Young Diarists on War and Genocide, features pages from the diaries of children and teenagers who lived through World War II, including Jews who lived in Nazi-era Europe, and a Japanese-American teenager whose family was forcibly relocated to Heart Mountain Internment Camp in Wyoming. Touch screens in the gallery offer visitors the ability to interact with the diaries, allowing them to read through entries, view photographs and drawings made by the young writers, and immerse themselves in their stories.

The Texas Liberator: Witness to the Holocaust exhibition shares photographs and stories of 25 American soldiers from Texas who helped liberate concentration camps at the end of the war. The Lester and Sue Smith Human Rights Gallery educates visitors through photos, informational displays, and documentary video projections, on the history of human rights violations and the significant efforts that have been made一and are still being made一toward women’s rights, civil rights, human rights, and equality around the world. 

On the first floor, the Memorial Room offers a much needed quiet space to meditate and reflect, and features a Wall of Tears made of 600 hand-painted ceramic tiles representing the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust; as well as a commemorative plaque and soil preserved from Babi Yar, the site of a Nazi massacre in Ukraine.

HMH’s sole permanent gallery dedicated to art is the Samuel Bak Gallery and Learning Center, located on the second floor, it is filled with surrealistic paintings by Bak, a Polish Holocaust survivor. 

2023 Exhibition: Woman, the Spirit of the Universe, a collection of hand-stitched bronze collars made by local artist Carolyn Marks Johnson, and includes a dedication to late Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

What temporary exhibitions are coming up in 2023?

Upcoming special exhibitions at HMH in 2023 include exhibitions of female artists and Holocaust histories. 

Woman, the Spirit of the Universe, a collection of hand-stitched bronze collars made by local artist Carolyn Marks Johnson, is dedicated to women who helped pave the way for equal rights across history. Included are the late Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Underground Railroad activist, Harriet Tubman, and others. The exhibit runs from January 13 to April 2. 

The Life and Art of Alice Lok Cahana provides a retrospective on the abstract art of Cahana, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor and later Houstonian, who studied art at UH and Rice in the 1950s, which runs from February 3 to April 9. 

From February 24 to June 18, the exhibition Neighbors 1938. We were All Ladenburgers commemorates the beginning of the November pogroms (also known as Kristallnacht) against Jews in Czechoslovakia, Germany, and Austria in 1938. 

Danish Rescue Boat on display at HMH. 

What kinds of special events are offered at HMH?

Special events at HMH include opening receptions for temporary exhibitions; lectures, conferences, and curated conversations on history, Jewish studies, and human rights issues; and film screenings and theatrical productions in the museum’s Albert and Ethel Herzstein Theater.

What’s in the Boniuk Library at HMH?

If you’re in need of research materials for a school project, looking to educate yourself more on Holocaust history or human rights issues, or need a new nonfiction recommendation, the Boniuk Library, located on the third floor of the museum, houses over 12,000 books, videos, recordings, and other resources for visitors of all ages to access. The library also offers weekly and monthly events, including author visits, a bimonthly book club, and a kids’ storytime hour every Thursday at 4 p.m.

What is a “fully bilingual” museum?

All wall displays throughout the museum (such as the wall text featured in exhibitions giving historical information regarding the objects on display, as well as directions to different galleries and other amenities in the museum) are written in both English and Spanish, creating an all-inclusive museum experience for visitors who speak either language. 

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston visiting HMH.

How much is admission to Holocaust Museum Houston?

Admission to the museum is $22 for adults, and $16 for seniors age 65 or older, AARP members, and active duty military. Infants and kids up to 18 can get in for free, as well as those who have a membership with HMH. Admission to temporary exhibitions and special events is usually also included with general ticket price, so you don’t have to worry about extra fees.

When does Holocaust Museum Houston have free admission?

From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Thursday, the museum offers free admission for all visitors. (And psst: there are plenty of other local museums offering free admission throughout the year, too.)

Can I eat at Holocaust Museum Houston?

The Legacy Cafe, founded by local Jewish caterer Vladimir Smirnov of Chef Smirnov Catering, LLC, is located on the second floor. Food options include Caesar and Greek salads, hummus flatbread wraps, sandwiches, and a kids menu featuring quesadillas and pizza bagels. You can also sip on a hot (or cold) drink while you’re there, like an espresso, caramel frappe, hot chocolate, iced tea, or fruit smoothie.

What can I get in the gift shop?

The museum houses a small gift shop on the first floor featuring books, t-shirts, and gifts for all ages, but you can also shop their items online. Browse their collection of Spanish-language books or purchase a Malala pin while you’re there. 

Where can I park at Holocaust Museum Houston?

The museum has a parking lot next to the building for visitors to use. Parking is free for up to 30 minutes, then goes to $8 for a visit lasting up to 4 hours. If you’re planning on taking between 4 and 12 hours at the museum, the rate will go up to $12. Members get discounted parking fees.

Where is Holocaust Museum Houston located?

Holocaust Museum Houston’s Lester and Sue Smith Campus is located in the Museum District at 5401 Caroline St.

When is Holocaust Museum Houston open?

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Check their website for holiday hours.

Wall of Tears made of 600 hand-painted ceramic tiles representing the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

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