“This Was Real”: Artifacts Save Holocaust Stories for Future (Video, Photos)

A sewing machine used during the time of the Holocaust is seen in the Personal Artifacts Vault at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center in Bowie, Md., Monday, April 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

BOWIE, Md. (AP) — The small wicker doll chair was a modest toy, but it meant the world to Louise Lawrence-Israels. A gift for her second birthday, it was the only toy she possessed during the approximately three years she spent hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam, just five blocks from the house where Anne Frank wrote in her diary.

The chair is one of thousands of artifacts housed in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’snew conservation and research center, which opened Monday on the annual memorial day for the 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany during World War II.

“It was a big thing for me to actually give the chair, because it was a significant thing,” said Lawrence-Israels, 75, one of about two dozen Holocaust survivors who attended the center’s opening. “A lot of people can look at it and see how it was for a little child in hiding.”

The David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center, in the suburbs of the nation’s capital, is a state-of-the-art facility with 103,000 square feet (9,570 square meters) for documents and artifacts, with room for expansion.

Jane Klinger, chief conservator, Conservation Services, opens a case in the Personal Artifacts Vault at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center in Bowie, Md., Monday, April 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The center houses thousands of items in eight climate-controlled vaults in a building designed to withstand tornadoes and hurricanes. Its collection includes everyday objects, from children’s toys and clothes to sewing machines used in concentration camps.

Travis Roxlau, director of collections services, said center officials have spent 25 years gathering the items.

“We collect stories, and all of the objects that go along with those stories, because as the surviving generation passes on, these are going to be the objects that are left to help us tell the history of the Holocaust,” Roxlau said.

Clothing worn in a work camp by an uncle and nephew who where saved by being on Schindler’s List is seen at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center in Bowie, Md., Monday, April 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Survivors say the center’s holdings are critical to preserving the reality of the Holocaust.

“I think the most important thing is to make sure that the memory of the Holocaust isn’t forgotten,” said Alfred Munzer, 75, who donated a silver teething ring that went with him at the age of nine months when he was put into hiding in 1942 with a Dutch-Indonesian family in the Netherlands. He also donated two small photographs of him that his mother kept hidden while she was confined in concentration camps.

Munzer, of Washington, D.C., said the center and its artifacts will serve “as a lesson to the world as to where hate can lead to.”

Lawrence-Israels, of Bethesda, Maryland, noted that she and other Holocaust survivors are “not going to be here forever, and once we’re not here anymore, the museum and this institution will speak for us.”

A interior secret pocket of a piece of clothing worn in a work camp by an uncle and nephew who where saved by being on Schindler’s List, is seen at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center in Bowie, Md., Monday, April 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“This is the only evidence that we leave behind, and with the climate today, it’s important that people see that this was real,” Lawrence-Israels said.

Scholars and researchers will have access to materials in the facility. A reading room is scheduled to open in the next year. The museum also is in the process of making documents and images available online.

BRIAN WITTE, Associated Press

Cynthia Huges, Textiles Conservator, Conservations Services, points out a hidden interior pocket on a piece of clothing worn in a work camp by an uncle and nephew who where saved by being on Schindler’s List at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center in Bowie, Md., Monday, April 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Boxes fill the shelves in the Documents Vault at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center in Bowie, Md., Monday, April 24, 2017. The Shapell Center is a new state-of-the-art facility that will house the collection of record of the Holocaust. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Boxes fill the shelves in the Documents Vault at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center in Bowie, Md., Monday, April 24, 2017. The Shapell Center is a new state-of-the-art facility that will house the collection of record of the Holocaust. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The diary of Tamara Lazerson, written during the Holocaust, is seen at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center in Bowie, Md., Monday, April 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
A coat hanger belonging to Fritz Steckelmacher from the time of the Holocaust is seen on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center in Bowie, Md., Monday, April 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)