By: Kevin Maisto
Raise your hand if you fit into any one of these categories:
1) History Buff
2) Student (lover of education)
If your hand is raised, then you must visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Unless you’re an infant (in which case you shouldn’t be reading this) or have lived under a rock since 1939 (the outbreak of WWII), then you know the basics of the Holocaust: over six million Jewish people died by way of the Nazi Party in Germany (led by Adolf Hitler) and its attempt to create racial purity.
However, this museum seeks to delve into a greater understanding than just intellectual. The architect sought to create a psychological and emotional response based on the real-time actions the museum-goer experiences. The result? An EXTREMELY emotional and powerful response.
You begin by taking a “Passport” of one of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust. Today, I was Franz Anton Ledermann, a German-born Jewish lawyer with two daughters. Wow. Instantly, it becomes real. It becomes you. The entire time, I reflected back to Franz. I wondered if any of the pictures on the walls, the unmarked graves, or the stories of brutality could be him. I wondered if they could be me.
It begins on the fourth floor (you work your way down), jam-packed with information regarding the Nazis’ rise to power and the subsequent destruction of European stability. It’s busy, frantic – much like that period in history. You then make your way down levels of history, detailing the war, the ghettos, the medical experiments, and the systematic killing. As you progress, the readings grow more infrequent.
There is more time to reflect.
Ultimately, this experience is meant to incite a response. A personal, thoughtful, inspired response. I can’t speak for the millions of people who have viewed the museum before me, but I can say for certain… It worked for me.