Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Holocaust Memorial Museum

For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.
-Elie Wiesel

As we walked through the security at the front, I began to take in what I was about to see. On Sunday we saw memorials and did some sightseeing, but this museum is the biggest reason for coming here.

Our group is big, and there were three elevators. At first, we thought that they were big, because they put in at least 30 (maybe more) people into it. When a new elevator came, it reminded me a bit of a selection process. She was just calling out schools and gropus, but I just sort of had a connection in my mind to that. We got into the elevator. It was just average sized, with a television. We were the last group, so we had less people, but the caustropohbic(sp?) feeling was still there. It was like a connection to the cattle cars.

We got out on the fourth floor, we were starting at the top working down. The fourth floor was about the Nazis and Hitler's rise to power. They had tons of screens playing videos in black and white. They had photos, and text on the wall-like structures surrounding me. I read and took things in while I walked. There were many people there. After waiting about seven minutes, we went into a seperate room. We then watched a movie that was 13 minutes long about the Rise to Power. We sat on benches, and the room was small. We continued our travels, and saw more photos, videos, and read more text.

We walked into the room of our second video, and I sat near the wall, since every bench was in use. I sat on the side with P, M and A (who had recently lost his group and walked with us for the rest of the time). We saw more artifacts and then went to the next level.

The Concentration Camps and Ghettos level. The third floor. This was a very graphic floor. There were plenty of pictures, text and video, but TONS of artifacts. Together, we walked through a cattle car. J was immensly shaken by that. I stood inside for a while, looking around at the space. I was imagining people being thrown and squished inside, longing for space and comfort. I had only read descriptions about cattle cars, and seen pictures and videos, but actually standing in it had such an effect.

We walked some more, and approached a barrack. We walked inside, and there were the bunkerbeds that the prisoners had slept on. I turned to J with a horrified look on my face and said, "J. This is so scary, because it is real. This isn't some replica or something made up. This is real."

A bunch of people were crowded around this square. It had walls around it, and people were looking down into it. P said that they were videos about the experiments. A was watching, but I was still waiting. He told us that it was so gruesome. J was telling us how she wanted to see it really badly, but at the same time, she wanted to stand aside. She looked back at it, and then said she'd see it. We got a spot to look, and then we saw it. There were slideshow pictures of the sick things that they did to people. They had subtitles/captions describing them. The last picture that I saw was a bunch of body parts, ripped off of people. I can still picture it in my head.

We walked down a hallway, and on either side of us, there were "pit-like" things filled with shoes. They were scattered, piled on top of each other. There was a poem by Moshe Szulsztein, a Yiddish poet, on the wall. On one wall it was written in English, and on the other wall it was written in Hebrew.

We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses.
We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers
From Prague, Paris and Amsterdam,
And because we are only made of fabric and leather
And not of blood and flesh,
Each one of us avoided the hellfire

-Moshe Szulsztein

The displays of the tatoos were next. That whole idea sickens me, personally. They had a HUGE picture of tons of hair in a pile, which was just a fraction of all the hair cut off. They used hair for matress stuffing. It was cheap.

The children area was just so touching. There were many names.
There was this one thing that just stuck in my mind. They used cracked tombstones from somewhere in Poland to make a wall.

I couldn't finish writing about my trip to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and all of the words I wrote aren't even close to describing the painful feelings and emotions that are brought out from this museum.

1 comment:

beverley said...

I am definitely visiting there someday.