For Essex County District Attorney Paul Tucker, visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum last month was an emotional experience. The exhibition photos of Holocaust victims, who were captured on film before their execution, has stayed with him.
“What really struck me – to me, it was very harrowing – was seeing the faces of folks, some of them you can see literally minutes before they were killed.” he said. “I wish everybody could see those exhibits.”
Tucker was part of a law enforcement delegation from the North Shore that went to Washington on April 13 to visit the museum. This first-of-its-kind initiative was funded by the Lappin Foundation and the Holocaust Legacy Foundation. Previously, the Lappin Foundation had brought students, parents, teachers and teens to the museum, but not law enforcement.
The law enforcement officials represented Essex County – DA Tucker, Sheriff Kevin Coppinger and 16 local police chiefs. The chiefs included Donald Cudmore, Georgetown; Kevin DiNapoli, Wenham; Scott Dumas, Rowley; Thomas Fowler, Salisbury; Jeffrey Gillen, Groveland; Thomas Griffin, Peabody; Neal Hovey, Topsfield; Dennis King, Marblehead; James Lovell, Danvers; Lucas Miller, Salem; Mark Murray, Newburyport; Paul Nikas, Ipswich; Ruben Quesada, Swampscott; Christopher Reddy, Lynn; Eric Shears, Merrimac; and Russsell Stevens, Hamilton.
They were joined by Deborah Coltin, president and executive director of the Lappin Foundation, and Jody Kipnis, president and CEO of the Holocaust Legacy Foundation.
“We need to work together with law enforcement officials to create a culture in which intervention is not only acceptable but encouraged,” said Kipnis.
“The feedback on the evaluations was excellent,” added Coltin. “All would recommend the program to other law enforcement. They learned a lot. They felt what they learned, they would use on the job.”
The visit began with a self-guided tour that took around two hours. One participant, Danvers Police Chief James Lovell, wished the group could have had even more time to tour the museum.
“It seems like a long time, but there was a lot of information to take in,” Lovell said, “a lot to experience, read and view.”
The group also met with staff from the museum and the Anti-Defamation League, and attended two workshops – one on policing during the Holocaust, led by Russell Garnett, program coordinator for law and justice initiatives at the museum; and the other on policing today, led by David Friedman, vice president of law enforcement, extremism and community security for the ADL.
The idea for the day came from a conversation between Lovell and Coltin during a community conversation in Danvers in the wake of antisemitic and racist banners that were hung from highway overpasses, including on Rte. 114 in Danvers, on the 21st anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
“Unfortunately, there have been some incidents in town the last couple years that needed to be addressed,” Lovell said, calling Coltin “an unbelievable partner” in helping with the community response.
Last January, Lovell attended a Holocaust symposium sponsored by the Lappin Foundation. There, he learned about a law enforcement program offered by the Holocaust Museum. He mentioned this program to Coltin when they reconnected at last fall’s community conversation. She suggested having a North Shore-based law enforcement trip to the museum.
“We want to build bridges, partnerships, allies,” Coltin said. “I’m a big proponent of different groups, constituent groups, understanding antisemitism and the Holocaust. Of course, law enforcement is one of them.”
Before the April 13 trip, there was an educational session about the Holocaust and antisemitism, including an update of last year’s ADL antisemitism audit. There was also an optional meeting with a local Holocaust survivor, Magda Bader. One of those who participated was District Attorney Tucker.
“What a tremendous personal story,” Tucker said of Bader, who survived Auschwitz at 14 years old.
The experience at the museum gave Tucker additional perspective to consider as he deals with hate crime investigations.
“We’re trying to find out why particularly young people do it,” he said. “Is it ignorance? Is it hate? Is it not knowing what the symbols mean? We’ve got to get to the heart of it – not only law enforcement, but society. There can’t be people standing on the sidelines … I think we’re at a critical point in this country.”
After returning to the North Shore, Tucker visited Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School for a student exhibit about genocide, including the Holocaust. He reflected on a week that included testimony from an Auschwitz survivor, a trip to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and a student exhibit on genocide.
Collectively, he said, “It gave me hope. It gave me optimism. There’s still a lot of work to do.” Θ