The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) is a national museum located in Washington D.C. Since its inception in 1993, the museum has served as the nation’s reminder when it comes to issues of the holocaust. So far, the museum has had more than thirty million visitors.
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These visitors have been from over one hundred and thirty countries. I had the chance to visit this Museum a few days ago. After waiting in line for about thirty minutes, I was able to gain admission to the museum’s exhibition. While at the museum, I tried my best to visit as many exhibitions as I could.
The museum boasts of a collection of about fifteen thousand artifacts and over nine hundred other items. The museum also uses seventy video monitors as part of its exhibition. Once one arrives at the museum, one takes an elevator to the fourth floor where the main exhibition is located.
Before one boards the elevator, a visitor’s badge is provided. This badge contains a true story about a random holocaust victim. I found this to be very thoughtful. The woman whose story was on my card was said to have died during the holocaust. Her story included details of how she was separated from her family and hauled into a concentration camp.
The exhibition in this floor includes the events surrounding Nazi’s rise to power. There are video tapes that help explain the origin of Aryan superiority. In one of the videos, Adolf Hitler can be seen spreading anti-Semitism through a public address. The exhibition also featured newspaper articles of the time. There were also billboards and other signs that Hitler used to propagate his propaganda.
From this exhibition, I learnt that Hitler’s circle of hate included the disabled, the mentally ill, homosexuals, gypsies, and other non-Aryan groups. Previously my attention was only focused on the hate Hitler had for the Jews. It was clear from Hitler’s mode of address that he was a man of great intelligence. This is in contrast to the usual characteristics that are often associated with dictators.
The third floor exhibition showed how things continued to deteriorate for those people who were targets of Hitler and his Nazi machineries. I also had a chance to listen to the recordings of victims who were contained in Nazi’s concentration camps.
There was also a model of the car that was used to transport Jews from their ghettos to the concentration camps. From this exhibition floor, it is clear how things changed for those targeted by the Nazis. One can also feel getting closer to the holocaust experience.
By the time we got to the second-floor exhibition, things had gone south for the victims. However, in this floor reactions from the rest of the population were featured. There were stories of Jews trying to rescue fellow Jews who were in greater danger. There was also a story about how the King of Denmark refused to give up his Jewish subjects. His bravery helped him save over ninety per cent of the Jewish population in Denmark.
In this second-floor exhibition, there were stories about events that followed the holocaust. These include emigration of Jews from Europe to Israel and America. This exhibition makes one question why the world reacted in such a slow manner. The tour ended with participants lighting candles in remembrance of the holocaust victims.
I have always read and heard about the holocaust. However, this visit to the USHMM brought me closer to the whole experience. The visit was also unlike the dozens of movies that have been made on the subject. It was a step into the actual experience.