Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holocaust Memorial Museum

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum http://www.ushmm.org/

If I believed in reincarnation, I’d bet money that I was somehow involved in the Holocaust. I’ve always been emotionally attached to that subject. In fact, in Junior High I even wrote a short story titled “The Red Scarf” which dealt with a young girl’s perspective of being imprisoned in a concentration camp. A few years later I visited the former Dachau camp in Germany.

Three years ago, I asked for “In Memory's Kitchen” for Christmas and was thrilled when I got it. As an Amazon.com review details, “Of all the documents of the Holocaust, this cookbook compiled from memory by the female prisoners at Terezin, a way station to Auschwitz, may be the most remarkable. The Terezin prisoners recalled and wrote down their recipes for chocolate torte, breast of goose, plum strudel, and other traditional dishes not because they thought they might ever need them--they were surviving on scraps and potato peels at the time--but as a testament to the future, so that their grandchildren might receive a fragment of their inheritance. The manuscript found its way in 1969 to Anny Stern, the daughter of Mina Pachter, whose poems on barracks life are also included.” (Citation: http://www.amazon.com/Memorys-Kitchen-Legacy-Women-Terezin/dp/1568219024)

But the one event that will forever be ingrained in my memory is my visit to Auschwitz. Words cannot describe that experience. All these years later and I can still bring forward specific images, smells, and overwhelming sadness. The camp had obviously not been used as a concentration camp for almost half a century, yet I could still feel the darkness that still hangs in that place.

So I guess it was fitting that my first museum stop would be here. It’s done well and seems somewhat inclusive. Although anti-Semitism is rightfully predominant in the museum there are sections that identify several cultural groups that were targeted including African Germans, Homosexuals, Gypsies, Masons, mentally and physically challenged. At the end they also have a part of the museum designated for other world crimes of genocide, like that occurring in Darfur.

I sent out several tweets from my self-guided tour as well as a guided tour of their special exhibit, “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda”. Check out the tweet history archive also saved at this blog site. I also participated in a cool interactive SMS (text messaging) feature which guided you through the Special Exhibit by sending a text message with a question for you to respond to and then it would send back a new response and ask you to move to the next check in point. What a neat way to connect with the digital generation.

It was a lot to take in emotionally on day one, and one 4 hours of sleep, but I’m still glad I went. I spent some time at the end in the Hall of Remembrance—a gorgeous, airy room for reflecting on all that was and still is the Holocaust. I lit a candle underneath Auschwitz – Birkenau only because I felt a deeper call to do so.

The Museum has a lot to offer, both in person and online. Those of you close by can borrow the CD-Rom I received for educators titled “Teaching About the Holocaust” or you might want to check out their educator website at http://www.ushmm.org/education/foreducators/ for many other resources, lessons, and professional development opportunities including a free online workshop.

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