Why is it Important to Study the Holocaust

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Updated: Apr 14, 2021
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I never thought I would ever have to bring up memories about the Holocaust again. I was born in 1933 in Kraubath bei Knittelfeld, Austria being the fifth of six children to my Roman Catholic Gypsy parents. I am a holocaust survivor and was sent to Birkenau [Auschwitz] being separated from my family forever. I never could have imagined that it would have been the last time I’d ever see them again. Eventually, I was freed, but after the whole experience, I never thought I would have to talk about it again. I was sitting at home with my husband and kids, and one of my kids brought up something about there being a Holocaust museum. When those words came out of my child’s mouth, I froze and got an achy feeling in my stomach. All the memories flashed before my eyes.

After I heard about the museum, I was interested and dying to know more. Some part of me really wanted to visit this museum, but the other was just scared inside. I researched a little about the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and found out the museum’s architect was James Ingo Freed. By the looks of some pictures, it looks like he did a fascinating job. I made plans to go, and I was beyond excited but still a little worried inside.

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I finally got to the museum and was starting to walk towards it. I saw a bronze statue called Loss and Regeneration built by Joel Shapiro at 15th Street Plaza United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was there to memorialize deaths of families in the Holocaust. The Holocaust was a massive killing of over 6.8 million Jews, gypsies, poles, handicapped or disabled people, and anyone the Germans thought were not superior during 1933-1945. This hit me hard as it made me think of my mom, dad, and my other siblings. I wish I could have done something to have possibly saved them. I kept walking then I saw these tall pointed limestone structures that looked very similar to the Nazi watch towers. I kept going, and I saw these gates made of steel and brick. It made me think of the gates entering the concentration camp. I was so vulnerable at that moment, not knowing what was about to happen. So far, I was awed by the fantastic architectural work and was ready to see whatever was next.

I then entered inside the museum where I was in the Hall of Witness. It was a three-story building that was decorated like the industrial past. This instantly hit me that this represented all the people including kids who died in factories during the Holocaust. I showed my full respect for them all. The Hall of Witness had a glass roof and crisscrossed steel tapings which looked like harsh rough brick. It also had triangle shaped widows, floors, walls, and ceilings. Then, I went into the elevator to go to the fourth floor. It was very crammed inside, and it reminded me of how crammed the cattle cars were when me and others were being taken away instantly from our homes and family to go to a concentration camp, factories to work, elsewhere, or even straight to death. I reached the fourth floor and saw an exhibit called the Nazi Assault from 1933-1939. It explored the rise of the Nazi’s and turning points in the Holocaust like Kristallnacht, the Nuremberg Race Laws, the Voyage of St. Louis, and the invasion of Poland.

There was also a cornerstone of the German State policies. This made me think of my childhood and life before the Holocaust. I grew up used to freedom, travel, and hard work. We traveled in a wagon until the Germans told us to stay put. We had to convert our wagon into a wooden house. I wish I could go back for even one day before the Holocaust. Life was perfect until the scariest, most brutal event known as the Holocaust came into play. It was like one day, you were having a wonderful time with your family and the next, the unimagined. I kept walking while I was on my way to the third floor and saw the Tower of Faces. There were many pictures of so many people of the Jewish community of Lithuanian town of Eisiskes. The community was sadly attacked by a mass shooting from September 25 and 26, 1941 by the Germans. They were all so innocent, and none of them ever did anything to deserve such punishment and the harshest of them all, death.

I finally arrived at the 3rd floor and saw the artwork Memorial in the 3rd floor lobby created by Ellsworth Kelly located in a white room with light. Ellsworth Kelly likened the artwork to memorial tablets with names of the victims of the Holocaust. While I was a victim and even a survivor, I felt tremendously sorry for all the other victims and faces that I saw while at Auschwitz who lost their lives. I looked around at some exhibits on the 3rd floor and saw the exhibit called the Final Solution from 1940 to 1945. It showed Nazi Policy towards Jews like ghettoization and mass murder in killing fields and gas chambers. I saw many different artifacts like a rusty milk can from the Warsaw Ghetto.

I also saw some information about the Soviet Union and how they were connected to World War II which included the Holocaust and photos of many Jews going to concentration camps. Not only Jewish people were treated like this and called not “superior” or another “race”, but also gypsies. Our campground had been fenced off and was under police guard by the Germans. My father had been taken away to a concentration camp when I was only eight as well as my mother and sister months later. This was one of the most traumatizing experiences of my life, and I hope no one must go through it.

Next, I saw the artwork Consequence in the 2nd floor lobby created by Sol LeWitt. His wall drawing was dedicated to all the ghetto’s and death camps. It had black and white squares and showed the absence of lives, families, and communities that were abandoned because of the Holocaust. This really gave me a lot of mixed emotions and thoughts of my gypsy community. To this day, I still wonder if there was any chance that it was still around, and I wish I could have visited it one last time. I regret not ever been able to say goodbye to my friends and family, but I never knew it would have been the last day I would have spent there. I then entered the 2nd floor and saw the exhibit the Last Chapter. It showed the end of the Holocaust and the allies’ victory over the Germans. I then watched a video on several Holocaust survivor’s testimony.

For example, one holocaust survivor was Elie Wiesel. He was the chairman of the President’s Commission, and he wrote the book Night. He had many oral speeches and testimonies, and he donated one to the museum. This brought me back to the day where I was finally freed in the Bergen-Belsen camp in 1945. I remember the joy and tears it brought to my eyes, and it all felt like a mind-blowing dream. That day was one of the best days of my life, and to this day, I can’t believe how lucky and blessed I was to have had made it through. After the long brutal war, I documented and published Lowara Gypsy songs about the Holocaust.

Next, I walked into the Hall of Remembrance. It was a hexagon shaped room like the Star of David. This represented that all the Jews had to wear the Star of David on their clothes. This was the Hall to remember all the people in the Holocaust that died. I instantly remembered all the faces I saw while entering the concentration camp. People were being pushed around and starved in one corner and in the other, being killed. I felt pain in my stomach as I felt terrible for all the people who suffered for days, being starved, and eventually killed. My body shivered as my head filled with all these tragic thoughts. There were candles lit and an eternal flame of remembrance lit. There was even a steel box which contained soil from the death camps. I also noticed that there were triangle shaped windows representing the light badges the Jews had to wear. Just walking and seeing everything with your own eyes was enough to give you chills from your head to feet. Even your bones would ache to the brim. My head was swarming and pounding with brutal images of all these pure, innocent people suffering and being forced to give their lives away as they knew what was going to happen ahead. I couldn’t help but to start tearing up slowly. Then those tears start to fall down my cold, speechless face. Even though this was just a room, it had so much power behind it.

I quickly stepped in the Hall of Witness again. It really did give you the harsh Nazi environment feeling even when you first walked in. The glass roof beaming off light really helped with the vibes you would get. My experience so far with the museum was outstanding. James Ingo Freed really knew what he was talking about. After all, he was born in Essen, Germany and witnessed Kristallnacht. He then evacuated to the United States. The museum that he designed was a jaw dropping experience, and it shows an emotionally powerful “resonator of memory”.

I walked back down to the first floor and saw the children’s section. I saw and experienced Daniel’s story from 1933-1945. Daniel was a Jewish boy from the Holocaust and has no last name. He was based on children’s lives in the Holocaust. This section in the museum shows narration, diary stories from children, and the harsh environment to help people see life in the Holocaust through Daniel’s eyes. This really meant a lot to me and touched my heart, because I was only a child when my parents and I were taken away. When I was little, I didn’t really understand the true meaning behind all this, but once I found out, I was shocked to the brim. Children’s lives during the Holocaust were so precious, because they had their whole lives ahead of them. The sad thing was very few made it out alive which is heartbreaking. I hope no child ever must experience anything like the Holocaust ever again.

I kept walking and found myself at the bottom floor where I saw the artwork Gravity made by Richard Serra. It was a twelve-foot square slab of steel which weighed 30 tons. I noticed that it took away space as the flow of tourists and visitors began to descend like forced separation in the Holocaust. To me, separation from your family and friends was one of the worst parts of the Holocaust. Never being able to see them again and even thoughts if they are still alive is terrible. The pain that follows with that is unbearable which to me makes it one of the worst parts of the Holocaust.

While I was walking around, this one quote struck my eye. It was “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” -Elle Wiesel. This quote spoke to me, because it was very meaningful and had a lot of emotion behind it. It said to me that we should never forget all the people who died and even survived the Holocaust, and we should respect them. Overall, I think no person ever deserves to go through, witness, or even hear things ever again like the Holocaust. That is one of the most brutal events in history and no person, especially innocent people should be sent there and separated from their families.

The experience of the museum was breathtaking, and the feeling when you first walk into the building was unreal. The way James Ingo Freed designed this building with such intricate measures left me in awe. I had a marvelous time and an amazing experience that left me in tears. Another thing that stuck out to me was that you should never take a day in your life for granted, because you never know when it’s going to end. Everyone should live their lives to the fullest, because you never know when your loved ones or life could be taken away from you. So, if you are reading this, please tell your loved ones that you love them, and never take a day in your life for granted.

Works Cited

  1. “Facts About the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.” Just the Facts about Washington, D.C., by Albert E. Kennedy, A & N Books, LLC, 2012, pp. 118–127.
  2. ‘James Ingo Freed.’ Encyclopedia of World Biography, Gale, 1998. Research in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/K1631002325/MSIC?u=monr27762&sid=MSIC&xid=d893656c. Accessed 22 Jan. 2019.
  3. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, www.ushmm.org/.
  4. You Are My Witnesses: Selected Quotations at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2007.    
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Why is it Important to Study the Holocaust. (2021, Apr 14). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/why-is-it-important-to-study-the-holocaust/