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"We hope you have a meaningful visit."

01 May 201502:33AMusa-2015travel

So this is a little bit out of order because it took some time for me to process. And frankly, writing about it feels a bit off somehow, but I'm going to anyway, because I think it's right. While in DC, we visited the Holocaust Museum.

"Have a meaningful visit" is their version of 'have a nice day', and that idea pervades the whole museum. It is a place dedicated to remembrance in the truest possible sense of the word. Not just remembering the idea, or that it happened, but preserving and passing on as many names and places and dates and stories so that not one single detail of those events is ever lost, with the goal that in doing so we will never allow something similar to happen again.

As such, it's not a curated experience of a museum, like walking through some of the natural history musems we've seen. It's a varied, full-on, throw things at the wall and see what sticks type thing. So these details just keep coming, and coming, and coming, until something breaks you - which is, I think, the effect they were aiming for.

For Grace, it was the rail cars.

For me, it was the shoes. Not just them, but the quotes to either side:

"We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses.
We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers,
From Prague, Paris and Amsterdam,
And because we are only made of fabric and leather
And not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the hellfire."
- Moses Schulstein

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.

Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.
- Elie Wiesel

This is heavy, but I'm sharing it anyway, because that's the point.

This is not a museum that hopes to entertain you, or inform you, or educate you. This museum wants to change you - change everyone, one person at a time - into the kind of person who will not let a crime of this magnitude happen again. For me, I'd like to believe that it has, and I hope that I will never have the opportunity to have that tested.

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