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Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Holocaust Museum

When I was in DC the first time, the Holocaust Museum was newly opened.  We couldn't get tickets to the main exhibit but were able to view the visitor space and children's exhibit.


This time I made it a point to see the main exhibit.  It was incredible.  It will be hard to describe it to you, but I'll share some of my observations.


1.  The over-arching theme for me was that the Holocaust did not happen overnight.  It wasn't like the Jews (and others) were living regular lives one day and in Dachau the next.  It was a gradual and systematic movement over a period of years.  The exhibit starts in the early 1930's.  There was a screening process to identify which members of the society matched the hair color and eye color that the Nazi regime wanted.  There were actually hair swatches used to match your hair color and if you were one of the acceptable colors, good for you.  If you were unacceptable, well...you were unacceptable.  Then they proceeded to burn unacceptable books, boycott unacceptable businesses, etc.


2.  You cannot imagine the horror and terror of the ghettos, death camps, gas chambers.  This museum is not the History Channel, you see everything.  The most disturbing for this mom of three beautiful babies? Video of the Russian liberators as they saw a death camp for the first time.  On a pile of dead bodies was a new born baby, dead, still attached to the placenta.  I choked back the sobs on that one...


It is very easy to hear of events and actions like these and think "That doesn't apply to me".  


3.  As you leave the main exhibit there is this quote by Martin Niemoller on a blank stone wall:
They came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.



If you ever have the opportunity so see the Holocaust Museum, take it.  You will leave changed.  

1 comment:

  1. I've been terrible about commenting lately but i've wanted to leave something on this post since you posted it.
    You're right, the holocaust museum leaves an overwhelming impact. Those images are as vivid as they were the day I saw them. It's horrific but as you're shuddering at what's before you, you want to go on, want to learn about those who were lost, hear the stories and honor the victims with your time and attention. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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