For the Dead and the Living We Must Bear Witness

Over the weekend, Kiefer and I visited the Holocaust Museum. It wasn’t my first visit (I went in middle school), but I’ve been wanting to return for awhile now, hence why it’s on my 30 Before 30 List.

Upon entering the museum, you are given an Identification Card. This card tells the story of a real person who lived during the Holocaust. My person was Magda Hellinger.

So much of what I learned from the museum was shocking, but here are just a few things:

  • The Nazi party was extremely organized. Once Hitler was in power, antisemitic laws passed extremely quickly. One exhibit shows a list of new laws passed nearly every day.
  • 33,371 people were murdered in just 2 days at Babi Yar.

Over Babi Yar, the wild grasses rustle. The trees look ominous, like judges. And everything is one silent cry. Baring my head, I feel myself turning gray. And I am one massive, soundless scream above the many thousand buried here.—Yevgeny Yevtushenko

  • The medical experiments people endured made me sick to my stomach. (Check Ms. FnkyBee’s post from yesterday.)
  • When prisoners at the concentration camps were freed, their struggle still wasn’t over. Many still died in the first couple weeks after rescue because their bodies were so undernourished their stomaches couldn’t handle the food they received.

The museum has a lot of pictures that really break your heart: bodies piled upon bodies and people so skinny that it makes the children on those $1-a-day commercials almost look well-fed.

When he left, Kiefer asked, “How can people not believe this really happened?” Which made me wonder, Do people still question whether or not the Holocaust actually took place?

If you have some free time today, why don’t you read a story of a Holocaust victim?

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About thoughtsappear

I eat lots of sugar. It's the only way to keep up with my new baby and to outrun zombies. View all posts by thoughtsappear

31 responses to “For the Dead and the Living We Must Bear Witness

  • fnkybee

    Wow. I have always been fascinated by the Holocaust. Fascinated is probably the wrong word but I have always been interested in it. I would love to go the museum and learn more. My post yesterday took me forever because I kept getting sidetracked with reading websites regarding what happened to the children. It’s so sad, its so depressing but it happened. I don’t understand how anyone can deny it.

  • Britt

    I just started reading Sarah’s Key which is about a family’s holocaust story. I cry every time I think about the atrocities of the holocaust. I’d love to see the museum.

  • Angela Noelle

    I took a WWII class in college, and it is incredible how organized and efficient the Nazi party was. And at the start of the war, the US was ranked something like #18 in the size of our military–waaaaaaay behind Germany and Japan. It is a wonder we ever won that war.

    I’ve never been to a Holocaust museum, but I really would like to go some day. I would definitely have to wear my waterproof mascara that day though, because I sob just watching documentaries about the horrible experiences and treatment of those persecuted and placed in the concentration camps 😦

    • thoughtsappear

      Thank goodness we did win it!

      It was interesting because a couple times Kiefer and I ended up close to a woman whose grandmother was in a concentration camp. She had come with a group of people and relayed some of her grandmother’s stories as we went through the museum.

  • aka gringita

    I remember going to the Holocaust memorial museum in DC with my sister some years back. There’s so much there that is striking, unforgettable. One relatively small thing I remember is going past a display that was just an entire room piled high with shoes taken from those sent to gas chambers. It’s not the most graphic display, really. But still… it was a mountain of shoes, and my mind tried to fathom how many people those shoes represented, and then extrapolate that this in turn is represents only a small subset of how many people were murdered (not even counting all the people who were worked and starved to death). The numbers become so large that it’s hard to wrap the mind around them, and then there are these shoes, something very personal, every pair of shoes represents a pair of feet, keeping perspective of the loss of individual lives…

    Just then my sister leaned over and whispered something I will never forget: They kept the shoes. They destroyed the people; the people were worth nothing. But the shoes… they thought the shoes were worth keeping.

    Oh, how dark can be the human heart, that people can do such things to one another.

  • TheIdiotSpeaketh

    Up until this last week, my good blog friend Emilee worked at the Holocaust Museum as a volunteer. She has since left to do her Mormon Mission. If you two had gone a week earlier, you may have ran into her. She always talks of what a powerful place it is to visit.

  • Sana Johnson-Quijada MD

    i luv’d this museum experience too! i had forgotten about it until i read your post and remember it vividly now. thank u. keep on.

  • Todd Pack

    That’s such a good museum. It’s really well done. Did you guys take Boo and Radley with you?

  • marinasleeps

    I know of a woman whos parents came from Germany. They believe strongly that it didn’t happen. Its called denial. No one wants to admit how badly Germany fucked up. But they did! THEY FUCKED UP!

  • Cities of the Mind

    It never ceases to be chilling, the evils humans can inflict upon one another. It’s easy to be overwhelmed and lose sight of the good aspects. As to not believing it happened. . . ignorance borne of wishful thinking or pure malice.

  • omawarisan

    It is shocking how many people do believe it doesn’t happen. The sad part, those people make new ones just like them. My son knew a kid in high school that spouted a lot of holocaust denier stuff. It was so apparent the kid was spouting what he was being fed at home.

  • LBB

    I don’t believe that others disbelieve the Holocaust. It’s something they insincerely claim to insult Jews.

    Some people are so determined to hurt others that they’ll be willfully ignorant.

  • 36x37

    I think it’s truly exceptional that you had the Holocaust Museum on your list of things. The horrible atrocities of that war need to be told and retold so that such a grave history never, ever repeats itself.

    Good post. Very nicely done.

  • Stacey

    I would highly recommend watching the movie The Devil’s Arithmetic. (Well, maybe not. I haven’t seen it in like 10 years. Fifteen year old me could have thought a piece of crap was a cinematic masterpiece. Anyway, give it a shot.)
    I would also highly recommend watching this show if you ever get the opportunity. This family’s story is incredible.
    http://shop.history.com/detail.php?p=69583&v=history_subject_religion_judaism_holocaust

  • hoodyhoo

    they do the same ID card thing with the Traveling Titanic Exhibit — and of course I got one who died. Drowned, actually, locked in Steerage with the rest of the undesirables. So that’s how I ended up bawling my eyes out at the Baltimore Aquarium. Dear Sweet Mama has pretty much forbidden me to go to the Holocaust Museum!

  • educlaytion

    There are those who claim that the Holocaust did not happen. Whether they actually believe it or not is a different story. That museum is a powerful place for sure. When I teach this subject it’s not uncommon for a student or two to get emotional.

  • Brea

    I was once privileged enough to know a man that played a role in helping where he could during the time of the Holocaust.
    http://breaaire.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/a-simple-country-doctor-an-international-hero/

    I will never forget.

  • nikki04

    Thank you for this post.

    It is so easy for us to forget our history. I know that it is difficult, and painful, and awful, but the only way to make all that suffering worth it is if we never forget. If we remind ourselves. If we look at the pictures we don’t want to see, hear the stories that make us weep.

    While I was in Europe last fall, I traveled through France with a friend who has a masters in history – focusing on the world wars and the Holocaust. We visited many WWI and WWII sites. I feel very lucky to have experienced those things with her as guide, and to have made that part of my European adventure. It was difficult and emotional, but so important to remember the history of these places, that so many view as tourists only.

    Great post, my dear. I’ll post about my time soon, too.

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