October 18, 2016

The US Holocaust Memorial & Museum: A Bleak Reminder of the Atrocity

Six million Jews were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis
during the Holocaust. The United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum
in Washington DC, as its name implies, is not just a museum filled
with artifacts, but a living memorial to the Holocaust.

Our memorable tour this summer left us with heavy hearts.
Still, I was very grateful for this educational, eye-opening experience.
Through the years, I've learned about the Holocaust in school, 
from books I've read, and from movies I've seen, but never
in such an all-encompassing, moving way as was presented here.

The Hall of Witness is an impressive 3-story atrium at the core of the building.
We happened to be in luck; a docent was at hand and happy to describe 
the symbolism of the brick and steel architectural features.

The Museum is sectioned into three floors of exhibits:
Nazi Assault 1933-1939
The rise of the Nazi party. Outbreak of World War II.
The "Final Solution" 1940-1945
Ghettos, deportation, concentration camps.
Last Chapter
Liberation, rescue, aftermath. 

Signs like this one, proclaiming "Jews Forbidden,"
were displayed in business establishments.

These are uncut Star of David badges that Jews were required 
to wear to distinguish them from non-Jews.

Railway cars remind us of this horrifying period of history 
when Jews were deported to concentration camps.

A quote by Elie Weisel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Have you read his book, Night?
It's an amazing book that I'd recommend to all.

The sight of 4,000 shoes, once belonging to prisoners of a concentration camp
in Poland, is a stark testimony to the horror of the Holocaust. 
Representing the relatable Everyman, the shoes are grim reminders of the 
men, women and children who lost their lives at Nazi death camps.

A bridge far above the Hall of Witness has glass walls etched with the names of 
5,000 European towns and villages that were completely destroyed by the Nazis.

This three-story room of photo album pictures forms a tower representing 
over 4,000 residents of Eishishok, Lithuania that were 
wiped out in a two-day massacre by a Nazi killing squad in 1941.
Only 29 escaped.

Seeing these photos made the Holocaust become real for me.
Real people with real families.
These just as easily could have come from the pages of our own family scrapbooks.
So many faces. Faces like yours and mine.
They had names, jobs, goals, and dreams.
The victims came to life and my history lessons became reality.

This was by far the most moving exhibit for me.
The most powerful; and also the most painful.
Yet, I felt the need to linger and allow the photos to
make their deep, indelible impressions on my soul.

The Hall of Remembrance is a solemn place to sit quietly, 
to light a candle, and to contemplate, reflect and pray.

A goal of the US Holocaust Memorial & Museum is to encourage and inspire us to 
"confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity."

100 Raoul Wallenberg Place SW
Washington, DC

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