How do I put words to the experience of visiting the Holocaust museum? Should I even write about it or just leave the section blank? I don’t really know.
Admission is free and photographs are not allowed. The building is modern and shaped like a long triangular fort, made of unadorned gray concrete. You enter by taking a long downhill bridge, creating a sense of foreboding as you approach the low gray doors. The museum is made of one long hallway that you cross back and forth visiting different rooms, tracing the timeline of the Holocaust.
I already knew many pieces of the history, but had never experienced it strung together in perfect chronological order this way, making it far more powerful. Numbers are broken down from millions to hundreds and thousands creating an individual sense of scale.
There are stories that I grew up with or was familiar with. Hitler’s rise to power. Kristalnacht. Trains. Concentration camps. Anne Frank. Starvation. The Death March so eloquently chronicled by Elie Wiesel in Night. Schindler’s List. But there are so many more. The museum is a massive collection of testimony and uses many of those videos to narrate the personal experience and create multimedia displays. I wanted to stop and listen to every one of their riveting tales but could not. This rapidly taxed my constitution and I started to feel very tired. Lost.
One room chronicles Auschvitz and the train ride there. There is actually the reconstructed remains of one such train. When I was in Hebrew School, on Yom Hashoah [Holocaust Rememberance Day] they would show us black and white videos of the Holocaust. Images burned into the brain of a ten year old that would Never Forget. Like a frightened child, I approached the boxcar slowly, gazing with horror. I placed a hand on it and it was as if I received an electric shock. Images flowed through my mind as I connected with the history. I stood there for a moment and wept.
I wandered through the last few rooms in a haze.
I exited the long hallway and was faced with a beautifully framed view of the mountainous countryside, filling me with a sense of hope and deeper appreciation of Israel, life and my freedom.