Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Life-changing Experience

Brittany (a high school U.S. History teacher), teaches a holocaust class. She has been to the United Stated Holocaust Memorial Museum and she told us that it was a must see site. So we decided that this museum would be our first destination on our recent trip to Washington, D.C. Photos were prohibited in most areas, so I was only able to take a few.
To read this one, click on it to enlarge it.
Brittany warned us that it would be an emotionally difficult museum to explore. The museum's purpose is not to depress its visitors, but rather to impact them in life-changing ways. I have read a lot about the Holocaust and have seen numerous photos and film clips regarding it. Yet I was totally unprepared for what I encountered.

Rick and I have visited numerous historic sites in several countries. We've been fortunate enough to visit the Sistine Chapel twice. Both times, as my eyes and heart and soul gazed upon its ceiling, I was moved to tears by its beauty and by its depiction of Bible facts that I know so well. Though I cried, it was a good cry, a cry in response to something wonderful that man had created.

The only other historical site that has moved me to tears was this museum. But these were not good tears.

I held myself together pretty well through the films and photos. It was heartbreaking to see Anne Frank's actual diary. It was surreal to see personal belongings displayed next to photos of their owners before they had been murdered. Still, I managed to retain my composure.

And then we came to this exhibit. (I borrowed the next three photos from Google Images.)
 Not sure what this photo shows? Here's a closer look. (Click on it to enlarge it.)
 Those are shoes. Thousands and thousands and thousands of shoes that belonged to Holocaust victims.

That is when I lost my composure. I stood there and sobbed. Something about those shoes penetrated the deepest parts of my heart and soul. In that moment, I felt that I knew every single one of those victims, that I had lost thousands of people whom I loved. I just sobbed. Rick finally had to help me step away. I wished he hadn't because this is what I saw next.
It's hair. Human hair. The Nazis shaved the heads of Jews and then used the hair for stuffing pillows and blankets. They slept in comfort upon the hair of those whom they had murdered. 

The Sistine Chapel and the United Stated Holocaust Memorial Museum: portrayals of the best and worst that humans have to offer. 

As we left the museum, this sign permanently etched itself into my memory.
Here's the thing: genocide didn't end with WWII. It is happening today. To learn more, visit this museum's website by clicking here

I didn't mean to overwhelm you with this post. I truly believe that every single American should visit this museum. Despite how difficult it was for me to walk through it, I am thankful for the experience. It really made my world so much bigger and more important than my tiny little corner of it. This was an experience I shall never forget, nor do I want to do so.

One last thing: I want to publicly acknowledge my daughter and her commitment to bearing witness to these truths. Not only does she talk about these things day in and day out, but she has been chosen as a Fellow Teacher at this museum in July. That is quite an honor. I could not be more proud of her. 

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