By Rachel Bradle, Kelly Tafoya, & Zachary Keller
Today we visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Before we started our tour we were given a booklet that described the Holocaust through the eyes of those who lived through it. This is one of their stories:
Chava Lea Deutsch was a Jewish woman who lived in Hungary. She was a wife and mother of four children. During 1940, Chava was unjustly subjected to Jewish persecution.
We started the tour on the 4th floor, which displayed the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany. As we carefully navigated the exhibits, we saw how quickly the anti-seminism propaganda spread throughout Germany. It was shocking to read how the Nazis burned books in order to cleanse the German people from non-Aryan ideas and how they boycotted Jewish businesses because they were considered to be their “misfortune”. By the time we were ready to venture to the next floor, we had experienced a number of Jewish persecutions including “the night of broken glass” and the Nuremberg Laws.
The walk down to the 3rd floor brought us to the most traumatic portion of the tour. We walked through a tiny train car that held the hundreds of Jews being transported to concentration camps. We saw a video that showed Nazis performing tests on the prisoners to see how long they could last in freezing cold waters. Most prisoners froze to death and drowned in these experiments. We saw the wooden beds where prisoners slept, the door to one of the gas chambers, and pictures of bales of hair that were shaved off dead bodies. However, the most impactful part of this floor was not something we could see or hear, but what we could smell. We walked through a corridor filled with thousands of shoes from prisoners who were gassed just after taking them off. It really brought the story to life and we felt like we were there with them.
Chava Lea and her family were deported to Auschwitz in May 1944, where upon arrival she was gassed. She was 76 years old.
The Holocaust Museum was one of the more somber points of our trip, yet it was one of the most influential. It got us to pause and reflect on our own lives and we learned a few lessons along the way. We cannot live in a world full of hate, we need to speak up for those who are persecuted, and we can’t afford to just stand by and watch anymore. The point is that every human being deserves to be treated with compassion and kindness and sometimes all you need to do is look at the world through someone else’s eyes.