Recently, my husband and I finally went to the Holocaust Museum after years of wanting to go. I’ve heard so many good things about it that one day, as a surprise for him, I reserved the tickets so we could go. The tickets are usually free, but to reserve them online you have to pay a $1.00 processing fee. I would recommend this, however, because otherwise you have to get there pretty early on the day of to purchase.
We had a lot to do that weekend in preparation for some upcoming things, so I was really close to almost asking that we not go. However, we’d already reserved the tickets and both of us really wanted to go, so I sucked it up, we fueled up on some coffee, and headed on the road to our nation’s capital.
This museum was probably one of the most harrowing yet amazing museums I’ve been to. In no museum that I’ve visited before has there been that much silence. Usually you’ll hear people going around and discussing the specific exhibits, but most of the time you heard nothing. It was as if the weight of what happened and the agony of knowing that this horrible genocide actually occurred sank as soon as the elevator doors opened to directly in front of the words that spelled, “The Holocaust.”
When you first come in, they give you an identification card and you can go through the museum with this card, later seeking to find out what happened to the individual on the card you’ve been given. The young lady on my card was killed, unfortunately.
I was teary eyed on several occasions – especially hearing the accounts of what happened from some of the survivors, who explained the horrors they experienced. Aside from just the horrors of knowing what happened, hearing it from the standpoint of people who lived through it and experienced the deaths, the murders and have vivid images of burning flesh etched in their minds really got to me. I remember one woman in particular said that in the first two days that she was at one of the camps, she felt 90 even though she was just a child. She felt she’d lived so many years.
One that particularly got to me was the story of a woman who’s mother took her sister’s son, so that her daughter wouldn’t be murdered. They were being warned by prisoners that they were killing women with babies, so rather than let her daughter be killed, she took her daughter’s son, so she wouldn’t have to die. Another story detailed how he was hiding with a couple of Jewish women with babies, who after the guards went past, the woman realized she accidentally strangled her baby to death – who was crying just moments before.
I loved that they mentioned neighbors and bystanders in the exhibit as well, because while they may not have been actively participating in the horrors, they passively were by not doing anything to help them. To me it was a reminder that while it’s important to exercise discernment as it’s not always wise to speak, there are things we can do to help those in needs and if we can, we should. Even if something is not directly affecting you, it is affecting others and that should be enough to grieve us to take action.
There’s also a few exhibits that are particularly harrowing – three of them being the exhibit where there’s an actual part of the train that took people to Auschwitz and the exhibit of the shoes and a photo of piles of hair from actual people from one of the concentration camps. The train was so tiny and just walking through that knowing that so many people were uncomfortably crammed in those trains and led to their deaths like cattle led to slaughter was so sad to think about. Knowing that where our feet were walking, there were possibly people sitting, standing, and kneeling for long periods of times as they were taken to the camps.
Regarding the shoes and hair, what’s even more sinister is that they sold them. As if taking them there and killing them wasn’t horrible enough, they would take their clothes, jewelry, and sell them to Germans back in the cities in Germany. They would take the hair of the women they shaved and use them as stuffing in mattresses, pillows, and for rugs. I can’t even begin to fathom or express how sick I felt knowing that – especially as I stared at the hundreds of shoes before us that once belonged to people.
Did you know?
Did you know that the Jewish people being led to these camps actually had no idea about the horrors awaiting them because they were told that by going, if they worked hard there they would be able to eventually be successful? The Nazi guards spoke nothing about them being murdered, abused, raped, given meager portions of food and sometimes having to use the bathroom in the same bowl they were required to eat from until they got there. Also, some people were shot as soon as they got to the camp.
Did you know that there were resistance riots in the ghettos during the time this occurred? There were some Jewish people that resisted and fought back against the oppression from the Nazi Germans.
Things I would certainly keep in mind when you go is that it’s really crowded on weekends. My husband and I went on a Saturday, since were both off and man, was it crowded. There were school groups there, which I think made the size that much bigger and for someone that isn’t a huge fan of crowds, at some points it felt a bit overwhelming. However, it didn’t take away from the museum and how impressive it was. Eventually I realized the trick is to kind of follow along the side where the exhibits are. Meaning, I basically walked right next to where the exhibits were, so I could see them and eventually there was a sort of line that formed where we began walking in straight lines along it rather than people randomly cutting in front of you to see certain sights. Once I figured this out, it helped make the large crowds at certain exhibits more manageable.
One of the things that I liked about this museum that it was very informative. They gave a really thorough explanation of life before the Holocaust, how there were Jewish people in Africa, how semitism in that region began, the holocaust, the camps, and WW2. It even included information about other genocides happening such as what’s going on Syria and what happened in the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. As someone who works directly with families who have lived and escaped the Khmer Rouge, I was especially grateful of their acknowledgement of these genocides that have and some that still are occurring.
We concluded our visit by going to this place called “Seoul Spice” in Washington, DC. I initially described it as Korean/Mexican fusion, but it was more of a Korean-BBQ meets Chipotle kind of deal. They sold Korean burritos (named kurritos – but look like giant kimbap rolls), Korean tacos, and Korean bowls (kurrito bowls). You could mix in whatever you wanted that they had available – just as you would at Chipotle or a Subway. They had kimchi, scallions, sirracha mayo, cilantro lime ranch (which was actually pretty good), bulgogi/beef, spicy pork/jeyuk gui, chicken/dak kalbi, dubu/tofu, and other delicious items. You could make your own or order a pre-made option.
My husband was a bit disappointed because he thought the meats would be prepared on the spot, but we both thought it was delicious for it being a fast-food/ready to serve kind of restaurant. I would definitely recommend and would definitely return!
While we’ve been to D.C together before, this was probably one of my favorite visits because I felt we learned so much at that museum about the Holocaust that at least I didn’t know. I left feeling more convicted to do something to help those around me that are suffering. It is my prayer that we all can grow to be more compassionate, more loving, and more willing to help our neighbors in need. May we do what we can to try to keep it from happening again.
Have you ever been to the Holocaust Museum? If so, what were your thoughts and what was an exhibit that particularly impacted you? If you have not, what is something you learned about the Holocaust that you didn’t know before?