on September 2, 2006
Museums normally celebrate the achievements of humanity activity; the Holocaust Museum showcases the worse. The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately 6 million Jews by the Nazi regime. Other groups, such as Gypsies, the handicapped, Slavic people, and homosexuals were also killed. The exhibits on display are some of the most moving, tragic, and unbelievable representations of history I have witnessed. Normally for me I get restless and bored after spending 2 hours in a museum, but I happily spent more than 6 hours here.Upon entry to the museum, you are given a mock passport of a real person, charting their history through the Holocaust, allowing you to feel emotionally connected as you walk through the exhibits. The museum uses documentary films, videos, audio-taped oral histories, and items such as a freight car, used to transport Jews from Warsaw to the Treblinka death camp, and Star of David patches that Jewish prisoners were made to wear to portray the history of the Holocaust. Especially stirring is the Hall of Faces, a narrow, three-story-high space crammed with framed photographs of the 3,000 Jewish residents of a single Lithuanian town, who were murdered in September 1941, and the collection of shoes of murdered Jews, where the mixed smell of sweat and leather can still be smelt. Some of the images on show can be very disturbing, and I would not recommend it for young children. The adjacent Hall of Remembrance provides a space for quiet reflection after your experience walking through the exhibits. In addition to the permanent exhibition, the museum also has a multimedia learning center, a resource center for students and teachers, a registry of Holocaust survivors, and occasional special exhibitions.Amongst the museum staff are Holocaust survivors willing to talk about their experiences and answer any questions you may have. I had many questions to ask, but after my experience in the museum, I wasn’t feeling like asking questions. To me, it felt wrong and insensitive. I can imagine, though, for people, who were alive during the Holocaust, it is nice to share your experiences with someone else who went through the same things.As with other museums in Washington, entry is free and tickets can be obtained on the day of your visit at the museum, or in advance by calling www.tickets.com (800) 400-9373. If you are collecting your tickets at the museum on a first-come, first-serve basis, it is essential to get there as early as possible, around 8am to avoid disappointment and a long wait. The museum policies are quite strict. As expected, no eating, drinking, or smoking is allowed, and all visitors pass through metal detectors upon entry. Photography, video, and audio recording is also prohibited.The Holocaust Museum is open from 10am-5:30pm every day, apart from Yom Kippur (October 2nd) and Christmas Day. Hours are extended on Tuesdays and Thursdays from April through mid-June until 7:50pm. For more information, visit www.ushmm.org, or call the museum on (202) 488-0400.
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