Exhibits at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum are moving, difficult to watch, and powerful, especially, for us, the ones that enable viewers to see and hear the victims tell their tales of camp life and the struggle to survive. The permanent exhibition traces the rise of Germany’s Nazi party starting in 1933 and events that led to race laws, the creation of Jewish ghettos, and the “final solution,” the extermination of Jews.
A plaque outside the museum cautions visitors to “Think about what you saw.” Especially in these fractious times, it’s important to remember that oppression of any one group tears apart democracy and threatens all groups.
Haunting exhibits fill the museum. Just outside the elevator, pick up an identification card. This connects you to a real person who went through the Holocaust, either surviving or perishing.
In the Tower of Faces: The Ejszyszki Shtetl Collection, hundreds of photographs of residents of this village line a red brick tower shaped like a smokestack. The inhabitants are sitting with friends, playing with children and going on picnics. The Nazis massacred all of these people.
In other areas, survivors relate their concentration camp experience in videos and on tapes you can watch and listen to. How crazed was Joseph Mengele? Look at the photographs of his “medical experiments.”
The permanent exhibit also pays homage to the “Righteous,” describing the residents of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a French village, who worked together to hide Jews, as well as the Danes who hid Jews in fishing boats, bringing them safety.
At the end, guests are invited to reflect and light a candle in the Hall of Remembrance.
Tip: Geared to ages 8 and older, “Remember the Children: Daniel’s Story” traces 11-year-old Daniel during the Holocaust. Daniel is a composite figure based on true histories of children who survived the Holocaust. The exhibit details how the Nazis’ policies increasingly limit and then destroy Daniel’s family. As you walk through the exhibit, you can look through Daniel’s diary as he records his feelings and fears. Photographs–none too graphic for children–aid in relating the events.
The museum has a small cafe.