The Holocaust marks one of the darkest times in the history of humanity, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is in place to prevent this from ever happening again. The Museum does this by trying to educate everyone that passes through its doors, and witnesses what was done to Jews, homosexuals, communists, Gypsies, and other groups chose by the fanatical Nazi regime. Located near the Mall in Washington D.C., the United States Holocaust Museum provides a stark reminder for what was once done, and what never be allowed to happen again.
I toured the Museum just this summer, with a group of students from colleges and universities across the United States. We had all been in D.C. for a political conference, and some of us decided to meet up and tour the Museum. Passes are free, but are subject to a first come, first serve basis, so it is best to check early. Be sure to visit the website (linked below) for more details on admission.
The exhibit starts with a guide handing out a little Identification Card to each person. In these, the story of one of the people who experienced the horrors of the Holocaust is printed, along with a photo. They serve to further bring the people who suffered during this tragic time closer to the visitors. An elevator, created to look like some sort of dark, industrial machine (almost an oven perhaps?) takes the visitors up to the fourth floor, from where the main exhibit commences. A short video is played on the elevator ride, introducing the visitors to what is about to be seen.
The four floors provide a thorough showing of the history of the Holocaust. The rise of the disgusting Nazi party and the history behind anti-antisemitism is covered in the beginning, continuing up to the Holocaust. Eye witness accounts, video clips, newspaper clipping, relics and the like all add to the Museum. Some rooms focus on the different people groups sent to concentration camps, others focus on the experiences of prisoners at these places of horror. One particularly moving piece is a large room, covered in photographs of Jewish people from a particular village. The photos show the lives of so many, none of which ever returned to live again in the village. Nazis completed destroyed the entire population of Jews, along with their hundreds of years of history in that village.
Virtually every aspect of the Holocaust is looked into. I have visited Yad Vashem in Israel, and found both it and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to be very informative, moving, and thought-provoking. Unfortunately for our group, we missed the last 10-15% of the Museum, due to closing time (5:00pm) being reached before we could complete the exhibits. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time for this place, as there is a lot of material to read and view.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is very somber place. I would think it very hard to bring small children here, but there were many when I went, with their parents. I feel that it is extremely important for people to visit this museum, and truly understand the depths of horror that descended upon the Jews, and other groups living in Europe. We must never again let such genocide occur, to the Jewish people, or to any other people group or religion. As you leave the Museum, a sign outside asks, “Now that you have seen this, what will you do?” I think the answer is really quite simple: “Never Again.”