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Holocaust Memorial - cellophane — LiveJournal
the story of an invisible girl
Holocaust Memorial
It has been a busy weekend! Fortunately I seem to be (basically) over the flu that knocked me out last week. Dinner and dancing on friday, dinner and dessert on saturday, then a museum sunday.

Today (sunday) F and I did something that we have been discussing doing for quite some time. We visited the Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills. While it was certainly not a "happy" visit, and I'm not even sure if it could be described as "good".... I absolutely consider it worthwhile.

I recommend visiting this museum to everyone even remotely nearby. It was very moving, and very well-done.

Initially we had been planning on going yesterday, but we were (at first) surprised to discover it was closed. Closed on a saturday? Then it clicked in and I said "Of course... it's the sabbath." Sunday turned out to be the perfect day to go though. It turns out that they offer free guided tours, and on sunday every tour culminates in a meeting with a Holocaust survivor.

The whole museum was painful but stirring. I read that Dwight Eisenhower, upon discovering the atrocities Germany was creating in the concentration camps, insisted that as much as possible be documented, photographed, and videoed. So that by remembering, we could keep such a thing from ever happening again. The memorial center is an attempt to help us do just that.

We went on a guided tour, which concluded with a presentation by a Mr. Weiss -- I believe his first name was William? Regardless, he was not just a amazing man with an amazing story, but a truly incredible speaker. He spoke with honesty and passion, and even though you could tell he had practiced and said all of these things hundreds of times before, it remained brutally real and engaging. He was 17 years old when he and most of his entire village in Czechoslovakia were sent to Auschwitz. When he finally returned home, there were only three people accompanying him. Neither of his parents made it.

One part that struck me was when he was talking about a factory he was supposed to work in, one that manufactured gasoline. It kept getting bombed, and he said they build that factory four times but never produced a cup of gasoline.

He said the second time it was bombed, "Inside working were some of my fellow... I keep getting myself in trouble here with words, because I keep wanting to say my fellow 'prisoners'. But these were innocent people! Here we were in camps, what we were doing here? Being treated like.... animals? If today you treat an animal like these human beings were treated, you would be put in jail."

He said a lot more, and only touched the edges of his story of course. When he was through, some people asked questions. One person asked him if he thought something like the holocaust could happen again. He said, "When I first started talking to people, many years ago, if you would ask me that, I would say 'no'. But today? Now I would say it could happen, yes. This is why I speak to you."

Somebody also asked him how he felt that some people today are trying to claim the holocaust did not really happen. This provoked the most impassioned part of his tale, and brought me to tears. After all, how could he feel? He was there. He lived through it, and he watched as many many people did not.

I can't even do a decent job of summarizing his words, nor bringing you there. All I can say is that it was stirring, incredibly painful, and I'm glad I went. I'm honored that I was able to listen to and meet this man.

They said (and I may have the numbers wrong, but I think the ballpark is correct), that there are about 1300 survivors still here in the Detroit area. And only about 40 of them are willing, or able, to talk about their experiences. As time goes by, I expect that number can only shrink. These stories are worth hearing.



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(no subject) - davehogg - Expand
specialagentm From: specialagentm Date: February 12th, 2007 05:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Sidney Bolkosky, one of my history professors at UM-Dearborn, has done a lot of work with the center. He interview survivors and tries to ensure their stories don't get lost, precisely because they are the best spokespeople for the horrors of this, and the best chance we have to ensure we don't forget.

We watched some of his work 15 years ago in my "History of Western Civilization" class. I'm trying my best not to think about it right now, only because I remember how I felt that day. It's the only time I ever cried in a classroom, and I certainly wasn't the only one. That film, and "Hearts and Minds" (a Vietnam War documentary -- if you've never seen it, right now is a very timely era to review the consequences of being in the middle of a civil war) still stick with me to this day.

After that film, I never could bring myself to go to the center. I just don't think I'm strong enough.

Sadly, we don't even need to speculate about the possibilities of another Holocaust. There have been too many situations that already mirror it since 1945 -- Stalin's purges and deportations (continuing from 1930-1950s), The Great Leap Forward & Cultural Revolution in China (killing massive numbers of intellectuals and peasants, all tools of the ruling party), The Killing Fields of Cambodia (hundreds of thousands starved or mercy-killed to feed a madman's need for power), the genocides in Rwanda, the genocides in Bosnia. All of them share scary elements of the same mania that let the Holocaust happen. I shudder when I think of the human capacity for evil, and the equal capacity to allow evil to thrive by our complicit in-action.
larcb From: larcb Date: February 12th, 2007 11:58 am (UTC) (Link)
My uncle, who passed last year, was a survivor. The people who say it never happened? Wish we could throw them in a time machine and let them experience it.
johnridley From: johnridley Date: February 12th, 2007 01:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, I'll have to get there sometime while there are still firsthand accounts to hear.
I'm right in the middle of watching a new (2006) BBC documentary on Auszwitz. It's very good. Of course, having been made in the UK, they don't subtitle the German language bits, assuming the viewers can understand well enough. It has a lot of interviews with both survivors and guards, as well as reenactments from recently recovered documentation from East Germany.
From: jer_ Date: February 12th, 2007 01:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I went to the National Holocaust Museum in DC shortly after it opened in 1994 (1993?) and it was an amazing experience. It's hard to describe, because it's not a "happy" experience... in fact, it's a completely emotionally draining one... but an important experience.

I think even more important as we reach new lows in racial and religious intolerance here in the US.
thatguychuck From: thatguychuck Date: February 12th, 2007 03:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
The tour guide said that this was the best facility of its sort in the nation. Offhandedly he mentioned, "The Holocaust center in London is similar to this one. ...though this one is larger," and continued with what he was talking about.

I thought about Amber and Cody while I was there. I wanted to offer to bring them or ask you to bring them, but I couldn't consider doing so until I could figure out what to do afterwards. Not just a physical what to do, but how to help a child handle it and understand it.

I couldn't understand. I couldn't wrap my mind around the why. After the tour and after the speech from the Holocaust survivor, after it was all over... I wept uncontrollably. I tried to stop because it hurt so bad, but I couldn't. I wasn't prepared for that.

I don't know how to even write about it yet. I want to write about this in my journal, but I want to reach the greatest audience and carry it in the best voice. But I can't. I know that I can't tell people, "You should really do this," and have them actually do it. But I want to.

There isn't even a good way to conclude a simple comment about this. The tour guide said a standard suggestion is that this isn't for children under the age of seven. It's traumatic. It's VERY traumatic. But I think when the time is right they should go.

It's free. No charge, no implied costs, no catches.

Take everyone who cares to go. Hours are Sunday - Thursday 9:30 am - 3:30 pm; Friday 9:30 - 12:30. Tours every day at 1:00. Holocaust survivors speak every Sunday after the tour.

It's not just directed at you, Jer. I hope everyone goes, and brings their kids or friends.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: February 12th, 2007 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, I thought he said seventh grade.

But every child is different....
skyflame From: skyflame Date: February 12th, 2007 09:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've also been to the National Museum in DC. It's three stories tall, has model replicas of at least one full camp, a couple of railcars (which are TINY), and a large meditation area in the center of the building. I didn't know there was a similar museum in Detroit, but it's not altogether surprising.
From: jer_ Date: February 12th, 2007 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
At some point I'm planning on paying a visit. I am definitely, however, going to do so without the kids before I go *with* the kids. I just need to know, going in, what I'm going to be dealing with.
hannunvaakuna From: hannunvaakuna Date: February 12th, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

never again.

i went a couple years ago with some Jaycees friends. it was harrowing, at best, and the survivor that spoke with us was amazing and inspiring. and oddly empowering, too. it wasn't long after that trip that i decided to start wearing my grandma's Star of David pendant, instead of keeping it hidden in a jewelry box.
From: bloggingchick Date: February 13th, 2007 02:49 am (UTC) (Link)
My boss who died several years ago was a holocaust survivor & could never talk about it. All we ever knew was that right b/4 being ripped from his bed one night, his mother told him to lie about his age in order to have a better chance of surviving.

I also vaguely remember in my own family who were Polish catholics, they hid Jewish people in their house until they could make to the U.S. Or something like that.
susmadel From: susmadel Date: February 13th, 2007 01:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
How does it compare to the museum in DC? I have been there and to the concentration camp in Mathausen (Austria).
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