Why the Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires is closing after record visits


BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — The Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires, Argentina, which last week welcomed a record 17,727 visitors in one night, has closed its doors for the next two years.

The 17-year-old museum set its attendance record on Nov. 4, and announced on Monday that it will close for two years for renovations. The museum, which daily welcomes Jewish and non-Jewish visitors from around the world, will undertake the building project in order to add space for a permanent exhibit on Adolf Eichmann’s life in Argentina after World War II, and for a permanent exhibit featuring a trove of Nazi-era objects uncovered in June by the Argentine Federal Police and turned over to the museum for display. The objects include a bust relief of Adolf Hitler, medical devices marked with swastikas used to measure head and body size, Nazi puzzles for children, a magnifying glass attached to a photo of Hitler using that magnifying glass, and knives, among other objects.

When the objects were presented to the public in June, Holocaust Museum President Marcelo Mindlin told JTA that hosting the collection “is a great responsibility.”

“We will prepare our site to receive this contribution. There will be a lot of fanatics that will want to enter, there will be people trying to steal the objects,” he said noting that “huge security issues” must be worked out.

Advertisement for the J

The objects are still in judiciary custody and experts are analyzing them. The judge in the case is Sandra Arroyo Salgado, the widow of former AMIA Jewish center bombing prosecutor Alberto Nisman. Salgado imposed a gag order on the investigation of the objects, so no further details were revealed. But Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said she asked the judge to have the objects donated to the Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires and the judge agreed.  A first analysis has revealed that most of the objects are originals from the Nazi era, according to information obtained by JTA.

The executive director of the museum, Jonathan Karszenbaum, told JTA that the institution has invited other institutions that work with the Holocaust and survivor issues to relocate to space in the newly renovated museum. “We also are working with the Holocaust museum in Washington and Yad Vashem for their expertise and also to incorporate new materials, mostly multimedia,” into the revamped museum, he added.

The renovation is estimated to cost $4 million and is being covered by private donors, including the Mindlin family, though funds are still being raised.

The attendance record was established during “Museums Night,” an evening sponsored by the Buenos Aires city government in which museums and iconic buildings of the Argentinean capital are open, with free admission and special activities.

During the renovation, the museum will keep on display an exhibition at the Buenos Aires´ Latinamerican Rabbinical Seminary, which will be open for visitors.

The museum is tentatively scheduled to reopen in April 2019.