Attraction review: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Washington D.C., USA

The attraction: The Holocaust Memorial Museum is the United States’ official memorial to the Holocaust. Located adjacent to the National Mall, it contains more than 12,000 artifacts, 49 million pages of archival documents, 80,000 historical photographs, 200,000 registered survivors, 1,000 hours of archival footage, 84,000 library items, and 9,000 oral history testimonies. With the exception of a visit to a concentration camp, it is perhaps one of the most somber places one can visit as a tourist. The museum’s exhibitions are arranged chronologically in descending rotations around the central space. The tour begins with exhibitions on the history of Judaism in Europe, eventually moving onto the rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Movement, Kristallnact (the Night of Broken Glass), and the subsequent and unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust that took place during the years of the Second World War. Before visitors begin the tour, each person is given an identification. It contains a picture and the story of a real person who lived during the Holocaust. Each page of the card corresponds to the chronological arrangement of the museum floors, so as you progress through the museum, you see what your person was doing during those years. Tours conclude in the Hall of Remembrance which is the official memorial to the 11 million victims and survivors of the Holocaust. The room has six sides which represent the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, and the six-pointed Star of David, which is the Jewish emblem. The six walls of the Hall of Remembrance feature black marble panels, engraved with the names of the major concentration camps in Germany and Poland. The six death camps, where Jews were gassed, are on a separate panel. The hall also features an eternal flame.

Pros to visiting: I am of the belief that every man and woman should visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum at least once in their lifetime. It is not just a museum but a living testament to the events before, during, and after the Holocaust. It’s neither a fun nor entertaining attraction; in fact, some of the photographs and live footage can be disturbing. And yet these horrific places existed, these unimaginable events actually took place. I like the way that the museum is arranged. For many people their knowledge on the Holocaust might be limited to figures like Anne Frank and Oskar Shindler, individuals who kept diaries during the war, had subsequent books published, and whose lives were  recreated in Hollywood. Although there is a small section of the museum dedicated to Anne Frank, you’ll learn about less famous but still important individuals, Jewish or non-Jewish, who risked their lives going against the Nazis. The artifacts they have there are also unbelievable-a cattle car that you can actually walk through that was used to transport Europe’s Jews to their deaths, personal effects such as eye glasses and hair brushes, human hair that had been shaved off the heads of Jewish inmates upon their arrival at the camps. It’s a museum visit you will never forget.

Cons to visiting: The only con is that there is a limited number of tickets available each day (tickets are free however) as tours are timed. However, you do have the option of securing tickets ahead of time; all you pay then is a small service charge. If you’re going to be in Washington D.C. during a busy time of year, I would recommend reserving tickets in advance so you’ll be assured of being able to visit.

Conclusion: The Holocaust Memorial Museum is one of my favorite sites in Washington D.C., not for its content, but rather for its achievement as succeeding as one of the most fitting memorials to the Holocaust in the world.. Greater numbers of Holocaust survivors pass on each year, but the Memorial Museum will forever stand as a testament and reminder to this horrific event in modern history. You may walk away feeling upset and disturbed, but you did your duty of bearing witness as a member of mankind.
Some of the thousands of shoes that were taken from the Jews upon arrival at the camps.
Photographs from a shetetl (Yiddish for town) whose entire
population was wiped out in the Holocaust.

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  • Reply
    January 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    So sad and still incomprehensible. Should NEVER be forgotten.

  • Reply
    the red headed traveler
    January 21, 2012 at 1:40 am

    Entirely unfathomable that something like this took place in modern times. I hope it never will be.

  • Reply
    July 1, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    This is truly one of the best museums in the word. It is emotionally powerful, intellectually challenging, and informative.

  • Reply
    the red headed traveler
    July 2, 2013 at 12:35 am

    Evan-Thanks for commenting and I completely agree with your sentiments. I have visited a lot of the museum “big wigs” but this is by far one of the most impressive ones. It’s “easy” to curate paintings but to curate artifacts from one of history’s most darkest periods is another thing entirely.

    I’ve never visited a concentration camp (although I hope to one day) but I think a visit here is almost as worthy.

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