Anti-Semitic voicemail leads to historic boat restoration - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Anti-Semitic voicemail message leads to restoration for historic boat

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Moving a 7-ton landlocked boat is not easy, especially when it's 70-plus years old and in danger of falling apart from being high and dry for years.

"Forces begin to work and gravity wants to lay her out flat actually. She wants to pull herself apart," says a wooden boat expert and Holocaust Museum volunteer.

But this isn't just any boat. It's a 1940s vintage Danish fishing boat and it belongs to the Houston Holocaust Museum.

In the fall of 1943, after years of Nazi occupation, the Germans decided to round up Danish Jews. The Danes organized a boat lift to smuggle the Jews to neutral Sweden. Using boats like this, they saved 7,200 Jews, 95 percent of the Jewish population.

The boat has been here five years and is dire need of restoration. The deck has holes in it from too much rain water. The hull planks have shrunk from lack of seawater. The estimated price tag? $200,000.

The Holocaust Museum is one of the few free museums around. No admission cost. The museum asks for a five dollar donation, but it's just a request. Raising money for projects like this can be tricky.

But then one of the conservators named Braeden Howard got a voicemail and he posted it on YouTube. It was an obscene, anti-Semitic, anonymous rant.

"The Glenn Beck Show" picked it up because Howard's family company advertises on his show and money and volunteers started pouring in from as far away as Australia. TNT donated the crane. A shipyard donated a new and better cradle, and craftsmen like Joe Babcock donated their time and skill. He's not Jewish but he has a special connection to the project.

"First of all, my wife is Danish and her father used to take Jews in the side car of his Indian motorcycle to these boats and from that part on I knew I had to be a part of it," said Babcock.

Despite the phone call, the project is on. Volunteers say they are not surprised. There's some historical precedence, a symbolic symmetry if you will.

"It's exactly what this boat represents, a spontaneous outpouring of good in the face of evil." said Hansen.

And after all, those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

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