Thursday, July 16, 2015

Visit to The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, DC...

The propaganda begins in 1933
Hitler youth played a major role in the rise of Nazi power in Germany..
What remained from one synagogue on the horrifying Kristallnacht, or 'The Night of Broken Glass'
In the Museum, made to look like tracks which carried Jews to the concentration camps...
A real cattle car used to transport Jewish people to concentration camps...that little window was the only one...
Photos, 3 stories high of one town, just one town of people, all of whom were killed, and the town leveled, as if wiped from the face of the earth...
An old milk container, used as a time capsule, found in the Warsaw Ghetto. There were 3 of these, only 2 have been found!!

What was a pretty dress with the mandatory yellow Jewish star, saying 'Jude'.
Earl Simons, docent extraordinaire..
My reflection on the wall in the sanctuary...
Deuteronomy 4:9 as the inscription..
Planning my East Coast sojourn, included seeing my 94 year old Aunt in Maryland and staying with my cousin. Aunt Sue is like the energizer bunny and she was delightful. She especially enjoyed my cooking dinner for all of them, saying, 'Wasn't it fun watching Amy cook!!' After all the many, many Thanksgiving dinners at her house, it was the very least I could do! And a good time was had by All. My cousin asked if there was anything special, besides seeing Aunt Sue, that I wanted to do while in the D.C. area. The first thing that flew out of my mouth was to see the Holocaust Museum. My cousin, seemingly thinking out loud said, 'I know one of the docents, maybe I will get in touch with him.' #wehavepeople!!! Well, it seems that Earl Simons and my cousin belong to the same synagogue in Maryland, and that she 'won' his offer to docent at a silent auction at the synagogue, 2 years ago!!! He has been nudging her all this time to take him up on his docent-ing skills. Let me start by saying, we were in the museum for about 3 1/2 hours. Earl met us at the front of the museum, and right off the bat, it was clear, that we were in for quite the ride. He has the unbridled energy of a young man, yet, Earl, (bless his heart) is close to 80!!! Like the tour guides in Israel, who are so brilliantly trained, the same rules apply here. Meaning, there is a special kind of person who can speak, and give life, with a breadth and depth of knowledge to what we know as the darkest, most unfathomable genocide.  It is the same thing in Israel, you cannot be a tour guide without heart and passion for the love of the land and it's history. It is impossible. We were immediately struck by his passion. The museum tour begins on the top floor, from the beginning of the Nazi propaganda in 1933, to the first floor and below to the liberation of the concentration camps in 1945.  Having just read 'All The Light We Cannot See', by Anthony Doerr, he paints a very clear picture of the Nazi machine and the brutal academies, which were mandatory for Hitler youth. These academies played a huge part in the rise of Nazi Germany.

As we walked through the hallowed halls, there were a couple of moments, where I had a visceral reaction. One was a collection of women's hair. All the women, men and children alike, had their heads shaved, as hair was a valuable commodity to the Nazi's. I really could not enter in to that space in the exhibit. The other was a real 'cattle car', in which the Jews were hauled off to the camps. The horrifying trek would take days and they were squished into literal cattle cars with very little air, mostly in darkness, no food or water, nothing. But, you had to walk through the cattle car to see the rest of the exhibit. The photo of the cattle car, which is not clear, I have posted anyhow, as it still speaks volumes.  

In our discussion, and part of the exhibit included choices. Posing the question, what would you do?What were the neighbors thinking as they saw their Jewish friends, co-workers, schoolmates, doctors, lawyers and Rabbi's being publicly humiliated, seeing them rounded up, millions shot dead in front of them as villages and towns were literally wiped off the face of the earth. What would your choice be? Again, what would you do? One visit, one very intimate visit was a gift. One visit, 3 1/2 hours, barely, just barely skimmed the horrifying surface...

Inscribed on the wall in the beautiful, most solemn sanctuary:

'Only guard yourself, and 
guard your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children...'
                      Deuteronomy 4:9

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