Holocaust Memorial Museum Report
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, found in Washington, D.C., fully describes the Holocaust that took place during the Nazi reign, which started in 1933 and came to an end in 1945. Abstract and novel plans were used to construct the museum. This structure was constructed in a way that it gives meaning to the history the museum addresses. The architect, James Ingo Freed, wanted visitors to have their understanding of the building’s elegant symbols and metaphors as engines for thought and self-examination. Limestone covers the outer sides of the museum, except the north side of the building. A large entrance fronts the 14th street to the east.
The roof of the museum on the north side is made in a pyramid shape with four towers that are made of red bricks. The 14th street entrance has squared arches, cubed lights, and window grating, which are a mere illusion. Visitors must go through the limestone divisions to come into a concrete structure. The Hall of the Witness, which is found in the interior part of the museum, is a three-story, sky-lit assembling place.
Visitors who get in from the 14th street move through a canopied entryway and then cross over a raw steel dais into the hall. This is a transitional entrance, separating and shifting the visitors from the outside world. The construction methods used in the building borrow from the industrial past.
Techniques that are old fashioned are noticeable in the Hall of Witness. They include bolted metals, steel plates, and rivets. This kind of architectural language signifies ironic criticism of early modernism’s elevated ideals of reason and sequence, which were used to build the factories of death. The fissure represents a sense of alteration, imbalance, and rupture, which are characteristics of the society where the Holocaust happened.
The design features that fill the hall of witness and reappear throughout the building represent the tragic thesis of the Holocaust. Black granite makes the west wing of the hall while the East wall is made of white marble, which signifies that the west wall is threatening while the east wall is hopeful (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016).
The museum houses a host of features and historical events, which comprise of the prewar life in Europe and North Africa and the rise of the Nazi reign. There is also Nazi’s racial propaganda that led to the killing of the Jews (Propaganda, n.d.). The collection also documents the plight of target groups from Nazi-occupied Europe and refugee communities in different countries, the global response to the rise of Nazism, followed by the persecution of the Jews, and Nazi’s occupation policies and customs.
There are also roundups, extraditions, and execution of the European Jewry, mass shootings carried out by the mobile killing squad, as well as other German and native police and supporting units. The museum also contains information on concentration camps, ghettos, labor camps, killing centers, the gypsies, homosexuals, the fate of Poles, Jehovah’ s Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, the mentally and physically handicapped, and other targeted groups during the war.
Other focus areas are the persecution of the Jews by the natives, resistance to Nazi guiding principles and actions, rescue efforts and Bracha, and life in hiding during the Shoah (Holocaust Encyclopedia, 2016). There is also the unearthing, disclosure, and freedom of the concentration and death camps, the trials during war crimes, and the seizure of war criminals and the experiences and testimonies of targeted groups after their freedom and Jewish experiences in the displaced persons’ camps. Elsewhere, there is immigration, both legal and illegal, to the United States, Palestine, and other countries, victim redressing and compensation, the Shoah’ memorization and commemoration, and contemporary documentation regarding those who disagreed with the Holocaust.
Various materials are used in the museum, and they include sculptures, artistic posters, paintings, prints, and other creative works by Shoah survivors or victims. There are also interviews, both audio and video, transcripts, manuscripts, books, and pamphlets. Video and audio recordings, photo reproductions, electronic copies, duplicates, cast, and microfilms are also present. Musical recordings, photograph prints, photo albums, slides, and photo templates can be found in the museum.
Textiles, for example, badges, uniforms, flags, costumes, and banners are also housed in the museum. Textual recordings like legal proceedings, diaries, memoirs, government documents, and institutional records are also present. There also are three-dimensional objects, for example, architectural fragments, jewelry, machinery, tools, personal effects, furnishings, and ritual objects. Other types of materials housed in the museum are works on paper, such as announcements, posters, broadsides, and maps (Bergen, 2003).
There are different sections displayed in the museum, which portray the first history of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. This section gives an elaborate story of how an idea was transformed into an internationally recognized institution visited by millions of people annually. The second section is the office of special investigations. From this section, one can learn about the cases against Nazi offenders that were investigated and prosecuted. The third section has featured artefacts, which comprise of the Model of the Lodz Ghetto. The Germans set up the ghetto and concentrated over 160,000 Jews in it forcefully. The fourth section is the Emissaries section.
This section contains records of the Jewish delegation in various European countries, Asia, and the Middle East. There are records of Zionist organizations abroad and Jewish refugees and displaced persons’ camps after the war. The fifth section has museum photos. These photos appear in the traveling exhibitions, and a majority of them are copyright protected. The sixth section is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which is a section that talks about the construction and opening of the museum, its design, and the council involved in the construction. The seventh section is the books section. The museum acquired the books in 2001. The eighth section of the memorial museum is the 42nd infantry division, a section that was created in August 1917; a few months after the Unites States entered World War 1.
I conducted my site visit on 24th May 2016 at 12.30 pm. During this time, there were some groups present probably with the same reason as I had of going back in history and reminding myself of the horrors that the Nazi regime left by killing millions of innocent people. The construction materials, photographs, images of artefacts, the colors on the walls, and the type of floors all depicted the wrath of the Holocaust. I embarked on my mission, which was to go through “Remember the Children: Daniel’s Story.”
The site seeks to relay in-depth information about different topics about the Holocaust. Some of the topics include the Nazi rule, Jews in prewar Germany, mobile killing squads, and the Nazi camp system, among other topics.
The history of this site is broad; the conception of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began as a plan in the year 1978, which then transformed into reality and is now an institution that is recognized internationally and visited by more than two million people annually. The head of the commission was a Holocaust veteran, who guided the commission in coming up with recommendations on establishing markers of the Holocaust history. They included the museum and an education foundation. In 1980 the Holocaust Memorial Council was instituted to come up with a memorial to the Holocaust victims.
Construction of the museum officially began in 1989, with President Ronald Reagan giving a speech during an event where the laying of the cornerstone was done. The construction ended in 1993. A dedication ceremony for the museum was done on April 22, 1993, and several days later the public was allowed to access the museum. “Remember the Children: Daniel’s Story” is one of the exhibition spaces in the museum, giving the Holocaust’s story from a child’s point of view at the time. There are also a children’s tile wall, an extensive research library and archives, and the hall of witness exhibition spaces.
From Daniel’s story, I decided to reflect on the ghetto where Daniel and his family were shifted when the Nazi regime took over. This was an entirely new life for Daniel compared to the comfort he was used to. The room had no privacy as only partitioning curtains separated one bed from the neighbors. The colors on the wall to the simple, unpolished wooden floor gave no similarity to the bright colored walls in his previous home and the carpeted floors.
The wallpaper was an ugly gray color and was peeling out, maybe because it had been there for a long time. A wall sign reads: “scary changes.” Daniel learned later that his parents died. My reason for choosing the ghetto life as my focus activity is to highlight the sudden changes that were forcefully inflicted on Daniel’s family, coming from riches to poverty. From this horrifying experience of Daniel’s story, I have learned that no situation is permanent in life.
Daniel and his family were forced to live in poverty and the parents later died, making the situation worse as Daniel was moved from the ghettos to the camps. I also realized that one should enjoy and appreciate life before they lose it.
One major concept gathered from the course reading in relation to my site visit experience is the meaning of life. According to Frankl, Winslade, and Kushner (2006), life never stops to have a meaning, even in suffering and death. This is portrayed in Daniel’s life where even though things changed for the worst, he continued living and finally made it to the end of the Nazi regime. Daniel survived because he had the will to live. Despite learning that his parents had been killed, Daniel still found strength to go on and lived the horrific Nazi experiences.
From my knowledge of the museum visit, I can confidently conclude that we must find a purpose to live and see through the tough times even in light of terrible things happening in our lives (Herman, 1997). No situation is permanent; hence, we should value the lives that we have by not giving up when things get tough, but by finding strength within ourselves to fight back and live again. The total time spent on this visit was one hour thirty-five minutes.
Bergen, D. (2003). War & genocide: A concise History of the Holocaust. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Frankl, V. E., Winslade, W. J., & Kushner, H. S. (2006). Man’s search for meaning. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Herman, J. (1997). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence–from domestic abuse to political terror. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Holocaust Encyclopedia. (2016). Introduction to the Holocaust. Web.
Propaganda. (n.d.). Web.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (2016). Web.
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