Monday, October 19, 2009

Yad Vashem

I learned an awful lot today at the holocaust museum they have here in Jerusalem. We had the chance to go through with our Judaism professor, who gave us background on all sorts of things. One that I found the most interesting is that of the Jewish mentality post World War II and how it evolved over time. I'll go step by step through the progression by pictures of statues throughout the area, then finish by saying a thing or two about the museum itself.


Our professor said that at first nobody talked about what happened at all. It was hard for a lot of people to talk about it naturally, but for those who did talk about it could be almost looked down on. The natural conclusion was that if things were really as bad as they said, the notion of "who's bread crumbs did you have to steal to survive and make it out here alive" crept into people's minds. This statue here represents those who submissively followed orders and commands from Nazi leaders.


In stark contrast to the first one, this stands next to it. Representing resistance efforts from within ghettos and camps, those involved in these rebellions were hailed as heroes. For a long time, these demonstrations of bravery were the only ones praised.


If I remember right we were told that in the late 50s the mentality of heroism shifted in the minds of Jews. This statue here represents a man who worked hard for a young school or orphanage from within a ghetto. The idea was that not only violent rebellion is heroic, but those who fought to keep a normal way of life in the face of such horrific events are heroic as well.


This last picture shows a couple rows of trees near the entrance. Each tree planted here represents a different gentile who risked everything to help save the life of a Jew during the holocaust.

The museum itself was a very interesting experience. I was trying my best to compare it with the one in DC, but it's been 5 or 6 years now so it took some time remembering. In DC, there seemed to be a lot of focus on taking you back to Germany at that time and feeling it. They had you walk through a train car that was used to ship people to the camps, and another area had a huge pile of shoes worn by people who lived in the camps. It's impossible to go through the entire museum with dry eyes. Where as here in Jerusalem, there seemed to be a lot of symbolism, respect, and healing. The museum in built with one giant long hall in the center, while exhibits are displayed in rooms on either side of this hall. Railings and such are placed throughout the hall, so that you have to zig zag your way back and forth, walking through every room. The end of the hall has huge glass doors, so as you progress through the museum and the story you're getting closer to the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. At the end they have a huge room with pictures and records of every known person who died in the holocaust, with room on the shelves for every person we don't have records of yet. They also have a little on Israel as well.

These are just a couple of the things at the museum and impressions I felt or idea that I learned. Honestly, I could go on forever about this day. There is so much to go see and learn, it would be impossible to write it all here.

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