Thursday, May 8, 2008
Located next to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing is a museum whose mission is solemn and serious. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, located at 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place SW, is a living memorial to one of the most atrocious acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing in modern history. Part of the mission of the museum is to "stimulate leaders and citizens to confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity, and strengthen democracy." It is a somber and stark reminder that, although we are the most evolved creatures on the planet, we are also the most diabolical and destructive.
Unlike other museums on the National Mall that are educational in colorful, fun, exuberant ways, the Holocaust Memorial Museum is an experience that is dark, honest, and shocking. (And well it should be as the subject matter is anything but fun.) The displays and exhibits tell the story of Nazi Germany's systematic process of murdering more than six million Jews and an equal number of gypsies, political dissidents, prisoners of war, the disabled, and homosexuals, among others. Its displays include film footage from the era, rail cars, piles of shoes and eyeglasses and shorn hair, and stories-high walls of pictures of many of the victims of the concentration camps and pograms that swept Europe under the Germans in the 1930s and 1940s.
The U.S. Congress authorized creation of the museum in 1980 and in 1993 the museum was dedicated by President Bill Clinton. The museum has received more than 26 million visitors since it opened its doors. More than 90% of all visitors are non-Jews. The museum runs several education programs for law enforcement officers, and plebes from the U.S. Naval Academy and cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point visit the museum every year as part of their education. The Holocaust Memorial Museum is not only a repository of artifacts and exhibitions, but is also a premier research institution on the Holocaust and includes oral, videotaped histories from more than 9,000 Holocaust survivors.
Today, the museum continues its mission of raising awareness about issues and current incidents of genocide in the world. The Holocaust Memorial Museum, in partnership with Google Earth, recently launched a geoblog called World is Witness that allows users to see areas in the world and read firsthand accounts where genocide and ethnic cleansing are occurring. Places like Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda, to name just a few.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is open to the public year-round and the permanent exhibit does not require tickets. If you wish to see the special exhibits, visitors must obtain timed tickets. The exhibits are free and you can either acquire tickets at the museum directly or through TicketMaster (which charges a handling fee.) It is recommended that children under 11 not visit the permanent exhibits.
Click on images to enlarge. Photo descriptions: (top) U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in the early morning light. (Right center): Courtyard of the USHMM on Raoul Wallenberg Place. The sculpture is titled "Loss and Regeneration," by artist Joel Shapiro, and is dedicated to the children killed in the Holocaust. (Left center): The front of the USHMM. (Lower left): Line of sight photo of an architectural feature on the side of the museum. (Lower right): Line of sight photo of the side of the museum. Note the lamps, which seem to mimic the light fixtures found in concentration camps.
Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 3/08