Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Yad Vashem

I’ve read of – even talked with – people who don’t believe the Holocaust actually happened. A visit to Yad Vashem – Jerusalem’s Holocaust museum – should erase doubt.

Yad Vashem has always housed a memorial and archive to the 6 million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, and for the past decade or so its grounds have also been home to a memorial for the 1.5 million children who died. Two years ago, Yad Vashem opened a new museum designed to underscore the human dimension of the Holocaust with video testimonials, photographs and personal stories of the systematic attempt to exterminate Jews throughout Europe.

If you’ve visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., you have an idea of how emotional such a museum visit can be. Here is the videotaped story of a woman who carried her sister 550 miles by foot in winter as part of the forced women’s march, only to see her sister die. The story of a young man who pushed into a mass grave during a group shooting, surviving because the Nazis missed and he was able to claw his way out from the dead bodies. Remembrances of Jews who believed themselves more German than Jewish -- until they were betrayed by neighbors. Photos – a child, a wife, a family – tucked into the pockets of death camp victims shot just before liberation.

Visiting isn’t a cheerful experience. But it is an important one.

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