Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The National Holocaust Memorial Museum...

.....in Washington, D.C. is an incredible place. On the morning of my birthday a few weeks ago, my girlfriend Lori and I decided to go on a trip to DC. We originally planned on going to the zoo, but it was raining and cloudy in Getysburg. She came up with the idea of the Holocaust Museum, and am I ever glad she did!

We took the drive to Shady Grove and got on the Metro (all of this of course being a new experience for me), and made it into DC in the late morning. We got off by the Dept. of Agriculture, which was only a very short distance from the museum.

How can one truly describe this place? I really don't think you can. You have to physically go there to not only see, but to feel the aura and to smell it. The designers captured the feeling well. A feeling of sadness, misery, and a deep aura of foreboding were with me throughout. Straight up, anyone who has the audacity to doubt that the Holocaust really happened should be forced to go here.

Upon entry, you can select an ID card of an actual Holocaust victim, telling you who they were, where they were sent, and what happened to them (adding a personal level of realism to an already surreal experience). You are then jammed into a very creepy elevator for a ride to the 4th floor. A short video presentation in the elevator sets the stage for things to come.

Starting on the 4th floor, you proceed through a series of videos, exhibits and descriptions of such things as the Nazi rise to power, segregation and persecution by race, the formation of the camps, and so forth, all the way to the end which shows the Allies uncovering the camps, and the public reaction.

Very powerful exhibits and displays of not only the final solution, but of the systematic robbery and de-humanization of the victims, do a very strong job of telling the story while not being overly graphic (this is not a place for the young, the squeamish, or the faint of heart). There is even a small exhibit that details the medical experiments (torture?) that were done on some of the victims.

Two exhibits that struck me the hardest were the railroad car that was actually used to bring people to the camps, and bunks from Auschwitz. Why? Because the true smell of death was actually present. Maybe it wasn't death per se, but it was an odor in the wood unlike any I have ever experienced, and it was not pleasant.

Again, this is a very powerful, extremely awesome, and extemely sad museum. If you are ever in Washington, D.C. with some time to spare, go check it out! You'll be forever changed, but you definitely won't be disappointed!
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