By Nicolle Austin
Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York
Upon arriving at the Holocaust Museum, I naturally had my own expectations of what I was going to see. I waited in the lobby for several minutes while my group of six other people got themselves organized. Some of us were laughing and joking; it struck me as being very ironic.
When the guard said, "Take a piece of paper, just one," I thought that I was going to get a number like the people were given when they entered the camps. Suddenly, I was apprehensive about going into the museum. Then I read the name on the card, and my heart went out to the person show picture I saw. The laughter in my eyes went away as I entered the elevator. During the short elevator ride, the words of the video being shown did not register in my mind. I thought about the girl whose name was on the I.D. card and what she suffered during and after the Holocaust.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
Quotation from the Wall of the Hall of Witness
When the doors of the elevator opened, and I saw the picture in front of me, a picture of dead bodies piled on top of one another as if they were garbage bags ready to be picked up. I was filled with a sense of horror. Something hit me; maybe it was the darkness of the room, or maybe the silence around me, but I felt something that I have never felt before. Thinking about it now, I believe this feeling was shared by everyone who saw that picture, by everyone in the museum. Although I did not know the other people in the museum, they all had the same look on their face, a look that seemed to say, "can you believe that this happened?"
As I walked through the museum, one section affected me the most, the wall of "mugshots" of Holocaust victims. I was looking at a picture of a girl about my age, whose hair was all cut off. She was looking at the camera and sort of smiling. I guess by my age it becomes a natural reaction to smile when someone takes your picture. All I could think was that they cut her hair off. I was practically crying because they cut her hair off. The reason that I was so upset is that I knew that was one of the "kindest" things they did to her.
I learned a lot from the museum, and it helped me to grasp a better understanding of what actually did happen during the Holocaust. Some parts of the museum I could not bear to look at, even though I knew I should have. The Holocaust Museum brought the Holocaust to life for me. Another part of the museum was the movie and the end which showed the victims describing episodes of their lives during the Holocaust.
I am not Jewish and am not related to anyone who was in a camp during the Holocaust, so I do not have a full understanding of it. I will never be able to change what happened, but I think it is our responsibility to make sure that it does not happen again. I do not want people in fifty years to talk about the former Yugoslavia and ask the same question that I am asking: "Why didn't anyone do anything?"
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Access the HGP's An End to Intolerance Web page.
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