Sunday, August 16, 2009

Think About What You Saw

Really, I should write two posts about my trip to the Holocaust Memorial Museum-- about the Museum itself and the experience and about my reflections on society as a result of my visit-- but instead, I am keeping it all together.
Truth be told, I have been to Dachau in 1997, so I thought I might have been prepared for the visit to the Museum yesterday. Before I began, I knew the facts. I had seen photos of the atrocities. I know the horribleness of what happened. I had been to a place where these things happened. Certainly a museum thousands of miles away could not possibly be as moving?
While the focus of the museum in D.C. was different than that of the one in Dachau, both are incredibly powerful. There were several times where I had to stop and and regain my composure and times when I sat down and just processed what I had seen and heard.
At the end of the museum, there is a Hall of Remembrance where I sat as people came and went. I read the inscriptions in the walls. I stared at the flame. I was lost with my thoughts and emotions. There were many stories shared, and I left with many more questions I might never be able to answer.

In the Hall of Remembrance, above a flame that burns over a coffin of soil from the death and concentration camps, ghettos, and mass execution sites, Deuteronomy 4:9 is prominently displayed.

Photo from the USHMM website
In some ways I wonder, are we doing this? Are we remembering what happened? Have we learned from the terror of the Nazi's?
Sometimes I think it is hard to tell. I say this not to minimize the horrible memory the Holocaust, but rather to learn from the past and hope for the future. There are unfortunate parallels to the past every day throughout the world, including in the United States. Anti-semitism still exists. "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" is still circulated. Everywhere you turn people hate one another and their beliefs. Buildings are bombed. People are shot. Families are displaced.
Genocide. Persecution. Hate.
In actions and in words.
We are all human.
Is it not time we start treating one another accordingly?
'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
Matthew 22:39


Rebecca said...

I have visited Dachau twice, and I spent a week doing research at the Holocaust museum as a part of a month-long intensive course on the holocaust and genocide in college. The whole point of the museum is to remember the past so that we don't repeat it in the future. While I was taking that class in college, the genocide in Bosnia was taking place. I sometimes think we never learn. Hate gets us nowhere. Violence gets us nowhere. And indifference ("that's not my problem") perpetuates our world's biggest atrocities.

Rachel said...

What a beautiful post. Elie Wiesel said that he wrote his memoir Night so that all may know the truth and therefore become witnesses to the Holocaust. He wrote that witnesses would never let another Holocaust happen. While, sadly, that isn't the case, places like the Holocaust Museum and posts like this do make a difference.

Maria said...

There is a quote/poem at the end of the permanent display that says just that about indifference.

"When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out."

Martin Niemoeller

Maria said...

(the whole statement is not there though-- I think it was the communists, trade unionists, Jews, and me)

Bethany said...

Thank you for sharing your trip with us. I don't know if I am able to visit the museum. From the little that my grandfather shared (he was in the army) and all that my grandmother kept inside (she was polish and in a labor camp). I don't think I can see more. My grandmother was not in the worst places of the holocaust but where she was wasn't good. I have read Night and it tore me apart, I don't know how much has been learned...there is still so much hate.

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