My husband and I talked about how the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. differs from Yad Vashem in Israel. While Yad Vashem is set up as a memorial, my husband offered, the U.S. Holocaust Museum is presented as a way to teach about the Holocaust and about genocide in general. I highly recommend anyone visiting Washington, DC to visit the museum.
This shot was taken from the top of the Washington Monument, looking down on the museum. There is an exhibit in the museum called “The Story of Daniel.” It is billed as being for children; I walked through it before I took my eight-year-old daughter, and I thought, this isn’t that scary. However, when I took my daughter, I felt differently. I could feel her fear and discomfort. She said she liked one of the early parts of the exhibit, a scene that showed a kitchen where Daniel, his sister and his mother baked cookies and a fancy cake, to be her favorite part. Perhaps because life was still normal for Daniel. His sister and mother were later killed at Auschwitz. The exhibit showed how bit by bit he was no longer allowed to swim in the municipal pool or even play in the park because he was a Jew. “Did you ever get blamed for something you didn’t do?” the exhibit asked. “We were.”
The exhibit showed little of the concentration camp; it mostly said it was horrible, horrible. One woman asked her friend how did the men (Daniel and his father survived Auschwitz) survive if the women did not? I offered that perhaps the men were taken to work, whereas the women were taken immediately to the crematorium. It was interesting to engage others that I had just met in a discussion. One mentioned the movie “Life is Beautiful,” and I suggested “Schindler’s List.”
As this wall states, everyone who comes to the museum can be a witness to the atrocity and tragedy of the Holocaust.
I would have liked to have seen this exhibit or presentation: “From Memory to Action: Meeting the Challenge of Genocide.” The museum staff, however, said that presentation was not happening the day of our visit. We also saw an exhibit on Nazi propaganda. A woman said to one of the museum staffers: “Don’t you think we live in an age of propaganda?” I am not sure what she meant, but I think we live in an age of information overload. What do you think?
If you are interested in kosher food in Washington, D.C., there are four packaged foods at the Holocaust cafe: tuna on a white roll, sesame noodles, salad, and beans and brown rice in a wrap. I thought the beans/rice in wrap delicious, the sesame noodles tasty, and my middle son was willing to eat the roll of the tuna sandwich (my husband ate the tuna). My eldest son refused all the food. He preferred Eli’s Restaurant.
We did not get a chance to see all the exhibits at the museum; I thought my daughter had had enough, and my eldest son was hungry. So we will have to see more on a future visit. If you have been to the museum, I would love to hear your feedback on what you found effective and well-presented.