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Holocaust museum reopens after fatal shooting

WASHINGTON - Liz Johnson showed up Friday to the U.S.Holocaust Memorial Museum with 12 Girl Scouts in tow. None of themwas alive when the Holocaust took place, but they were determinedthat a fatal shooting at the museum two days earlier wouldn't keepthem from supporting its mission.

The members of the Dallas troop were among the hundreds ofvisitors who streamed into the museum as it opened for the firsttime since authorities said 88-year-old James von Brunn of Annapolis, Md. gunned down a security guard who had opened the doorfor him.

"To say that we can't do this because of this event is that manwinning," said Johnson, 35, whose group clad in lavender T-shirtswas among the first people in line. "We're not going to let himwin."

The museum, which was closed Thursday for a day of mourning,opened to crowds that officials said were about the same size asusual this time of year.

Meanwhile, rabbis around the country were preparing to discussthe shooting with their congregations at weekend services. At theconservative B'Nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton, Fla., RabbiDavid Englander expected the shooting to resonate with the1,300-family temple's numerous Holocaust survivors.

"This is an assault on what they went through," Englandersaid. "This isn't just some statistic or some random act ofviolence. It's representative of Holocaust denial everywhere."

At the museum, few signs of the shooting remained. The crimescene tape was gone, and the bullet-scarred front doors had beenreplaced.

About two dozen flower bouquets near the entrance formed amakeshift memorial to the slain guard, 39-year-old Stephen T.Johns, who lived in Temple Hills, Md. On top of one bouquet was aphoto of the slain security guard Johns, who was black, with theinscription, "Truly a righteous Gentile." The term "righteousgentile" has been used to describe non-Jewish people who tookrisks to save Jews from the Holocaust.

Before talking Friday to museum visitors about surviving theHolocaust, 89-year-old Charles Stein of Springfield, Va., calledvon Brunn a "crazy one" and said he was concerned there could becopy-cats. The native Austrian's parents were killed in Nazi gaschambers in 1942.

He added that the world will always have its share of Holocaustdeniers and anti-semites such as von Brunn. "There's nothing youcan do about it," Stein said. "Unfortunately, we have laws toprotect people like him for saying whatever he wants to say."

Authorities have charged von Brunn with murder in the Wednesdayattack and are considering whether to file hate crime charges. VonBrunn, who was shot in the face by other guards, remained incritical condition Friday.

Two security guards fired at von Brunn at least eight times ashe walked in the doorway of the museum, according to courtdocuments. No one else was injured.

The chairman of the D.C. police union said Friday that one ofthe guards who returned fire was Harry Weeks, who retired from theforce in February after more than 27 years.

"I consider him a hero," Kristopher Baumann said. "He steppedup and put his life at risk in order to protect tourists andvisitors."

At Temple Beth Shalom in Arnold, Md., near von Brunn's Annapolishome, Rabbi Ari Goldstein said he wants to make it clear thatanti-Semitism and racism are still issues.

"This is where this guy is from," said Goldstein, who plans totalk to congregants Friday. "Our town is not free of this type ofhate."

Rabbi Linda Henry Goodman of the Union Temple of Brooklyn, N.Y.,said she planned to take a few minutes during Friday's eveningservices "to remind all of us of our obligation to engage in'Tikkun Olam' -- that's Hebrew meaning to repair the world, which isreally the sacred mission of Jews."


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