US Holocaust Museum

U.S. Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C.
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.

U.S. Holocaust Museum from above
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.”

Isaiah You Are My Witnesses
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.

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17 thoughts on “US Holocaust Museum

  • I try to visit the Holocaust Museum once a year, at least every other year, if I can’t make it on a given year.

    It grounds me, as I walk through the Holocaust exhibit, viewing, reading, hearing sounds of horror, feeling the astuteness of atrociousness surround me. When I walk through the hallway upstairs where names of towns and cities that were destroyed are etched in the glass windows, and I see “Shilel” and “Pasvalys”, I shudder, and stop to say Kadish for my relatives and others who were massacred.

    It is a very profound experience, each time, and I feel a part of me yearn for those I never knew.
    To be there is meaningful, soulful, and allows me to pay tribute to those who have gone before me, in one specific place. After all, there are no individual graves to stand before, so for me, the Holocaust Museum is a place of reverence, and a place to show honor and pray for those lost.

    • Nice to hear from you…yes, Washington is full of surprises for children and adults who once were children.

      I look forward to posting the butterfly garden as part of Nature Notes.

  • Interesting post about the Holocaust Museum. They also have great resources online for schools/teachers.
    Regarding information in the digital age, I also feel we are overloaded and it is sometimes difficult to know where to look efficiently and get news that is as little biased as possible.

    • I’m not sure there is such a thing as unbiased news. We all have biases.

      I’m sure you would get a lot out of the museum, Ilana-Davita. It’s one of those places that each of us will find different aspects to note.

      • Here’s an exercise I did in eleventh grade history class (way back in the 1970’s!): we were giving three magazines – Time, Newsweek and the New Republic. We had to read articles carefully to find the bias about Israel. It was very eye-opening. I still do this today, whenever I read a news article. Who is writing this, and what are this person’s values? We all value different things, even if the differences are subtle.

  • I saw the Story of Daniel years ago, shortly after the exhibit opened. Teaching about the Holocaust to children without frightening them is a very difficult task, and I thought that the exhibit did a fairly good job. My Sephardic then-husband, who knew very little about the Holocaust, found it very moving and said that he would never forget it.

    • “who knew very little about the Holocaust” – I am saddened to hear that any Jew knows little about the Holocaust. I am pleased that public school kids in New Jersey are getting some of this history as part of their education.

    • I’m not really sure what you mean. We didn’t see the upstairs, which is the bulk of the museum. My eldest son visited here with his eighth grade class, and my middle son will visit with his eighth grade class this coming year. Teaching about the Holocaust is difficult, and I can tell this museum works hard at this task, as does the Rutgers Master Teacher Institute, which trains high school teachers to teach about the Holocaust.

    • OK, so getting back to the semantics…I’m sure the curators spend a lot of time picking the language. Can you agree that “genocide” is even stronger a word than murder?

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