Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sad, sadder, and the saddest: The Holocaust History Museum, Jerusalem

I didn't visit the Holocaust History Museum during my first two trips to Israel.  Being an optimistic and happy-go-lucky creature in general, I chose to see and experience the happy side of the country and the Jewish culture/history first.  But the taste of war during my third trip gave me a sense of what people have to live through today, and a visit to the Museum was a reality check for what people had to suffer in the history, possibly the darkest part of human history. 

The Museum is a sad place to be, even before I started reading and learning anything.  The interior of museum complex, designed by Moshe Safdie, conveys a feeling of struggling to me.  The entire structure is made of concrete, and apart from the ceiling light in the main corridor (picture above), there is no single window in any exhibit room as far as I remember.  Also, both sides of the wall are tilted, pressing against you, even when you trying to bath in the only source of light in the corridor (picture above).  Some of the design is functional, as the exhibit rooms need to be dark for the purpose of multimedia presentations, more likely though, the architect tries to represent the gloomy and breathless feeling for the hundreds and thousands of Jewish people who suffered in the World War II.

There are plenty of sad texts and numbers to learn about the Holocaust, but for me the sadder part was the story-telling.  Almost in each of the exhibit room, there is a TV playing a survivor telling his or her story.  Almost each of the story made me feel like crying or shouting out loud angrily, "What was wrong--How could any human being treat a fellow human being like that?!"  One of the stories, for example, was a 13-year-old boy watching the Torah that he read during his Bar Mitzvah torn apart and burned down in front of him...Being in such a Torah-reading ceremony recently and witnessing how people treasure and worship the Torah, I cannot imagine anything worse happened to that boy. Physical suffering is one thing, but the collapse of belief is a whole different matter. 

The saddest of all though, was the last exhibit room, called Hall of Names.  The ceiling of the room features a gigantic cone displaying hundreds of photos.  Before getting over the fact that all those children, women and men lost their lives in the Holocaust, I saw the wall of the room full of bookshelves, then there were files after files on each shelf.  It turns out each of 2.6 million, and so far ONLY the 2.6 million has got a page of his/her profile on record, and this Hall of Names have room for six million in total...

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