Yesterday I experienced the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in a way I wasn’t expecting. Of course I knew it would be heart-wrenching to see what these people experienced, but I never thought it would hit me so hard.
First, thank you to the museum and all the donors who made this a place worthy of remembering.
As most of us who visited might say, one thing I visually remembering seeing consistently throughout was the quote by Elie Wiesel saying, “For the dead and the living we must bear witness.” I keep thinking, how could you not? Well, I’ve been to this museum before and clearly didn’t remember much of it. In my own life I’m really bothered when I can’t do anything in certain situations. In this case, I literally can’t. But I started to think about other things that I do and realized that I can contribute in other ways.
Adolf Hitler, the man responsible for this tragedy, served as Chancellor from 1933-1945 followed by what we would call the President of Germany from 1934-1945. He joined the Nazi Party in 1920 and made his way claiming leadership shortly after in 1921. This led to his appointment as Chancellor in 1933. It is believed that under his leadership six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
As for the museum, it was like this never ending stretch of darkness adorning the walls on both sides. I remember seeing the tattoo display and wondering what the prisoners were thinking when stamped with a number. Up until this year’s election I’ve always felt like just a small face in the crowd… but this is serious, it’s not a vote, it’s a live human being. I also vividly remember walking through the dark and empty rail car that was on display in the middle of the museum. Chills ran through my body as I stepped inside. Prisoners were subjected to starvation, illness and at times, freezing temperatures.
This is pure insanity.
I also recall reading an excerpt that was written on the wall on a partial quote from Hitler speaking to his military leaders on August 22, 1939. “I have issued the command—and I’ll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad—that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy,” he said. How can anyone think this way? I don’t believe a human being could be filled with this much hatred. You what this quote means, so I’ll leave it at that.
It’s hard to fully grasp how this happened. I think about surrounding countries and, with pure frustration and anger, wonder why nothing was done. How could they sit back and do NOTHING? Maybe someone can provide an explanation because I certainly don’t get it. We see the Holocaust as a historical event but fail to recognize that was the culture, that’s how things were during that time and nothing could be done about it.
Finally, although I can’t bear witness to this event, I can bear witness to a current situation. Mission work is incredibly important to me and I want to help those in need. The situation in Darfur is scary and although it’s still going on, people all over the world are contributing in many ways. As a direct result of what I experienced yesterday, I want to be an advocate for genocide in Darfur.