In an attempt to tell the authentic stories of the atrocities that took place throughout the Holocaust, the Zekelman Holocaust Center showcases in powerful and moving ways how history still plays a critical role in modern life.
Often referred to as the Holocaust Museum Michigan, the Zekelman Holocaust Center is the largest facility of its kind in the state. It strives to empower visitors by remembering the past and highlighting the damaging, devastating role that hatred, anti-Semitism, and genocide play in our world — even to this day.
Visiting the Zekelman Holocaust Center in Metro Detroit
The Zekelman Holocaust Center is the top Holocaust museum in Michigan. Founded in 1984 as a memorial, this museum has transformed into a cultural center that tells the story of the Holocaust in a vivid and immersive way.
By sharing the stories of the horrors faced by the Jewish people throughout the Holocaust, the museum aims to empower people to resist hate and bigotry in our modern world.
Where is the Michigan Holocaust Museum?
The Zekelman Holocaust Memorial Center is located in Farmington Hills Michigan in the Metro Detroit area.
When to Visit the Zekelman Holocaust Museum
The Zekelman Holocaust Center is open throughout the year, inviting visitors to explore its many exhibits at a time that is convenient for them. It is closed on Saturdays, Jewish holidays, and legal holidays, so it’s best to check the operating hours before you plan your visit.
The History of the Michigan Holocaust Museum
The Zekelman Holocaust Center, as it exists today, is an impressive, modern museum filled with interactive exhibits that showcase the horrors of the Holocaust in real and relatable ways.
It was first founded, however, in 1984 as a Holocaust Memorial Center, and at the time, it was the first memorial of its kind in the United States.
The Holocaust Memorial Center, then known as The HC, quickly outgrew its location on the campus of the Jewish Community Center, and it relocated to Farmington Hills. In 2004, it moved into a fresh, state-of-the-art building that would allow the museum to further its mission.
What began as a memorial with exhibits and artifacts has grown into a multi-faceted facility — one that is part memorial, part museum, and part research center. Today, the museum includes core exhibits, rotating exhibits, a research center, archives, and an art gallery.
Since it was founded nearly 40 years ago, the museum has welcomed more than 1 million visitors from around the world.
The Zekelman Holocaust Center Experience
Considered to be an experience that is both enlightening and sobering, the Zekelman Holocaust Center aims to raise awareness about the truths of the Holocaust, remember the stories of the victims and survivors, and promote inclusivity, equality, and fairness for the future.
Exhibits, Displays and Artifacts
The museum consists of both core displays and rotating exhibits. Visitors find that these are some of the most affecting and poignant exhibits at the museum:
The Eternal Flame and Memorial Wall
One of the most important traditions in the Jewish faith is to light a candle for 24 hours on the anniversary of the death of a loved one. For so many families, there is no specific date that they can rely on to remember their loved ones, and they have no resting place that they can visit.
The Eternal Flame at the Zekelman Holocaust Center burns 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, ensuring that all of the souls who were lost during the Holocaust are remembered and cherished.
A boxcar that was used by the Nazi regime to transport Jews and other “undesirable” people to ghettos and death camps has been preserved in the museum and is the focal point of the Henrietta and Alvin Weisberg Gallery. The boxcar is set against a period backdrop and includes audio-visual elements to create an immersive, eye-opening experience for visitors.
Museum of European Jewish Heritage
Prominently featuring Eastern European shtetl life, the Museum of European Jewish Heritage aims to preserve the culture and history of the Jewish people from this region.
Artifacts and murals are on display, highlighting Jewish culture and heritage from this region of the world across the centuries.
The stories told also include accounts of Anti-Semitism, which impacted their livelihoods throughout all of history.
On the surface, the Timeline appears to be a simplistic exhibit — one that details the important dates of Jewish history. However, the Timeline is designed to contextualize Jewish history within the context of the most important world events.
The goal of the exhibit is to showcase how specific events impacted what happened and can continue to alter what is to come.
The Camp System
The Camp System exhibit explores the unimaginable horror of the system that was put in place during the Nazi Regime in order to terminate the Jewish people and any others considered to be “undesirable.”
While the exhibit provides information about the most well-known death camps in Poland, such as Dachau, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Treblinka, it also provides lesser-known information about the thousands of camps that were put in place across Europe.
Some were slave camps, others were death camps or transport camps, yet all played a devastating role in the Nazi’s ability to enact the Final Solution.
Designed to be both immersive and informative, this exhibit includes artifacts, photographs, and audio-visual elements that bring the atrocities of the Holocaust to life for visitors at the museum.
Portraits of Honor
Portraits of Honor was first developed in 1999 by the son of Holocaust survivors in order to highlight the strength, beauty, resilience, pain, and perseverance of Michigan Holocaust survivors.
Today, this interactive exhibit showcases the portraits and biographies of survivors who lived or are still currently living in Michigan.
The purpose of the exhibit is to reflect on not only what these survivors endured, but also their strength and resiliency in the years and decades following the Holocaust. It is an exhibit that highlights the beauty of the human spirit while portraying the very real pain that these people experienced during and after the Holocaust.
The Viola and Garry Kappy Anne Frank Tree Exhibit and Garden
Throughout her diary, Anne Frank referenced a chestnut tree that she could see from the window of their hiding spot. It was a tree that promised new life, and that was a sign of hope to the young girl who was simply trying to survive with her family. The tree survived this harrowing time and existed as a symbol of hope for people around the world.
While the tree itself no longer lives, its saplings have been gifted and planted in symbolic places around the world. The Zekelman Holocaust Center was one of 11 sites in the United States to receive a sapling in 2009, and today, this tree grows in a secure garden that can be viewed inside the museum in the Anne Frank exhibit.
Survivor Talk Sundays
On Sundays throughout the year, the Detroit Holocaust museum hosts Survivor Talk Sundays. These talks bring Michigan Holocaust survivors into the museum in order to share their stories and experiences.
The museum emphasizes that each survivor offers a unique story and perspective, and these talks allow visitors to connect with the real people who endured the cruelty of the Holocaust.
As time passes, there are fewer survivors alive to share their tales, making these speaker series an incredibly rare and valuable opportunity for people of all ages.
Holocaust Museum Michigan FAQs
When is the Detroit Holocaust Museum Open?
The Zekelman Holocaust Center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday. It is closed on Saturdays and does not operate on Jewish holidays or legal holidays.
When was the Zekelman Holocaust Center Founded?
The museum was first founded in 1984 as the Holocaust Memorial Center, and it was located on the Jewish Community Center campus in West Bloomfield. It relocated to its current modern facility in 2004.
Are guided tours available of the Holocaust Museum in Michigan?
Currently, guided tours are not available as renovations are currently taking place. The museum plans to resume guided tours in the winter of 2024.
How long is the average visit to the Zekelman Holocaust Center?
The average visit to the museum varies based on the age and size of the party. School groups or families with younger children might spend a couple of hours in the museum, while adults may find themselves immersed in the exhibits for the entire day. The pace of your visit will depend on your party, with many visitors opting to come back for another visit to explore the exhibits further.
Is photography or video allowed at the Holocaust Museum Michigan?
Visitors are able to take photographs or videos for non-commercial purposes, though flash photography is prohibited.
Step Into Time for a Moving and Powerful Experience at the Holocaust Memorial Center in SE Michigan
While the Holocaust museum in Michigan is one of the most popular spots for school field trip groups, it’s also a worthwhile visit for anyone who simply wants to discover the truth about the past while learning about its relevance today.
The Zekelman Holocaust Center is an incredibly moving experience, one that will remain with you for many years to come.