Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tears and sadness at the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem

Photo from Yad Vashem
One of the must-visit destinations for anyone traveling to Jerusalem is the Vad Yashem, the Holocaust History Museum located in the hills outside central Jerusalem. This is the world's largest information center on the Holocaust and an excellently put-together museum in its own right.

If you're going on a pilgrimage tour, this won't be on your itinerary as your schedule will be full of churches and religious sites.

But I strongly suggest you take time to visit this, as for me it was one of the major highlights of a very eventful trip to Israel, full of amazing experiences.

Most people will have already a basic idea of what's in the Holocaust Museum even before they set foot here, as everyone knows about the terrible events surrounding the Holocaust.

But, frankly, nothing prepares you for what you will experience at the museum itself. This is an in-depth and interactive history lesson that draws you in with a force I can't describe. Perhaps it's the overpowering force of the event itself.

Photo from Yad Vashem
I go to museums all the time all over the world, and this is one museum I could have spent the whole day in. I wanted to see every detail of the painstakingly recreated exhibits and memorabilia on display -- much of it from items donated by survivors and their descendants from all over the world.

Photo from Yad Vashem
It begins with the vibrant and unique culture and life of Jews all over Europe prior to the coming to power of Hitler, and then it slowly and so vividly progresses to Hitler's first acts against the Jews in Germany once he was elected.

The perfect storm of a bad economy in Germany and a mesmerizing and brilliant leader with an unfortunate agenda triggered the first stone against the Jews. It was black propaganda at work by a well-oiled German machinery.

After that, events unfold one after the other, and it is only here that even I, as a lover of history, finally understood how the Holocaust had happened and could happen.


Photo from Yad Vashem
In the beginning, the Jews were caught completely unaware. They knew there was something wrong in the air but it was hard to fight a force and propaganda so strong that even they themselves got sucked in.

In the beginning, many of them accepted their fates to wear the yellow star on their clothing and undergo all kinds of discrimination -- especially as the changes happened step by step.

They also believed the official line of the Nazi government at the outset, that they were being sent to work camps -- when, in fact, they were being sent to concentration camps.

There are poignant tales and images of well-dressed Jews sitting on benches in the railroad station waiting for the trains for the camps, being served cups of coffee by well-dressed and polite German soldiers.


You already know it will be a sad story as the Holocaust is truly a sad story that tells of just some of the many hardships experienced by the Jews because of their faith, their way of life, and their race.

I learned a lot about the Jewish faith while I was in Israel this week; frankly, lots of it -- especially the faith as practiced by the ultra-orthodox Jews -- is hard to appreciate in a genuine sense, even by someone with a more open mind than most.

Young Israeli soldiers visit the Holocaust Museum

But what it taught me is that people should not be judged by their differences. And I resolved to practice this in my own life, and especially in my Travelife, which takes me around the world and puts me in contact with different cultures and races practically every week.

Scroll down to read about the sad notes of the doomed....


I started this tour with my companions and an excellent guide arranged by the museum. She provided a very interesting account, but the imagery used in this museum was so powerful that I found myself looking closely at most of the exhibits instead of going along with her and the group.

There were personal effects of Jews who had died, last letters they wrote on their way to concentration camps -- many had flung hastily-written postcards out of the trains, hoping someone would get them, or written last notes before dying -- and diaries, photos, records, videos, and music.

“My dearest. 
Before I die, I am writing a few words. 
We are about to die, five thousand innocent people. 
They are cruelly shooting us.
Kisses to you all, Mira…”

It wasn't long before I was all in tears over the inhumanity of man against fellow man. The lives of happily families were shattered overnight, and so many people never ever lived to be able to see their hopes and dreams fulfilled.

Millions of people experienced pain and loss that I could only begin to fathom a portion of, via the remnants of lives that they left. And the terrible part was that so few countries and individuals stood up to help them while they could.


Photo from Yad Vashem
At the end of the museum is a domed room filled to the rafters with photos of men, women, and children who died in the Holocaust. Meanwhile, the sides of the room are lined with bookshelves that list the names and details of the approximately six million Jews who perished.

After seeing their lives, the injustices, and their sufferings, I burst into tears at the reality of their death -- made so real and final by this room.

Photo from Yad Vashem
The tears only stopped when I left the museum and returned out into the sunshine, anxious to forget a dark and horrible world I had just entered.

But all of us in the world should actually never forget what happened in the Holocaust -- because remembering it is the only way to ensure that something of this kind will never happen again. To any race, or to people of any faith, or to people of any belief.


Established as the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in 1953, Yad Vashem is tasked with commemorating, researching and educating people about the murder of six million Jews by the German Nazis and their collaborators. It's housed on 45 acres on the Mount Of Remembrance in Jerusalem, and visited by over one million people each year.


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