When we went to Washington D.C., I couldn’t pass up a visit to the Holocaust Museum. I’ve wanted to see the museum since I wrote a paper on Dr. Mengele in the sixth grade. Several of my friends have visited the one in Amsterdam and the one in D.C., and they warned me that I need to mentally and emotionally prepare for the depth of sadness of the museum. I thought I was ready, but when I left the museum, I had to sit on a park bench for quite a while with a hot dog and chips to process what I saw, thought, and felt.
On the first floor of the museum, guests choose a booklet that follows the story of a person who endured the holocaust. This was the one I chose. Karee chose this one:
When I go to museums, I like to read everything. By everything, I mean EVERYTHING. And digest, and process, and speculate, and wonder. I remember being in complete awe of the wealth of information that I did not know about the Holocaust. It’s different when you read an article, a textbook, or watch a movie about the Holocaust. Being immersed in the maze of macabre and sadness made it sink it like it hadn’t before. It wasn’t quite real for me until I spent three hours in the museum. And I could have stayed for three more.
One thing that particularly resonated with me was the Nazi’s strategy for rising to power. First, they lead a propaganda war against the Jewish people of Europe. I stared at this sign for several minutes before I tore myself away. There was a depiction of a propaganda poster that had Jewish people smiling who were missing teeth and whose faces were slightly deformed. The poster reads, “Even when Jews smile, they’re evil”. As a result of this propaganda assault on Jews, Germany passed numerous laws that cultivated and bred legalized hate.
The paragraph on “Homosexuals” (which by the way, don’t use that term. It’s a throw back to when being LGBTIQA+ was classified as a mental illness in the DSM. They took it out of the DSM in the 1970s) literally made my stomach turn. There were several pictures of gay men who died in the Holocaust. I didn’t know that there was a whole bureaucracy to hunt down gay men. They didn’t even have to be Jewish.
These are some portraits taken from the homes of the victims.
Throughout the museum experience, you’re directed to read certain pages of your Holocaust victim’s booklet. The girl that I had survived, but the guy Karee had did not.
I can’t help thinking about how Hitler and the Nazis created a culture and political climate for hate and how that relates to the American elections that are happening this year. No matter your politics, consider this when voting: do we want a president who has repeatedly said that he wants to create laws that marginalize certain ethnicities, races, and heritage based on fear and hate? I certainly do not.