This week marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp. We visited the camp a few years ago, and it is an experience that neither of us will ever forget. If you are unable to make the trip to Poland, but can make it to Washington D.C., I would recommend a visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. While the Holocaust is a serious subject, the museum does a good job to not only highlight man’s atrocities but also looks at those who would stand against them. (See our visit to Auschwitz here)
The Permanent Exhibition takes the visitor from the origins of the Holocaust in 1933 through the Second World War including the liberation of the camps and on to the aftermath. One can easily spend 2 or more hours walking through the exhibit and following the evolution of events. The subject matter can be a little overwhelming and full of powerful imagery, so take it at your own pace.
On the lower level of the museum, you will find the Children’s Tile Wall, which will give everyone hope for the future. It is interesting to see these complex subjects through children’s eyes and will certainly bring a smile to your face.
If you are looking for an exhibit that is explicit without being graphic than Daniel’s Story is what you want. The exhibition is well laid out and contains intricate details that correlate to a kid’s perspective on the events unfolding around him. There are diary notes spread throughout allowing you a window into Daniel’s thoughts. (This exhibit would be a good starting point for children, especially ones that are first being introduced to the subject.)
If you need a moment to reflect on your thoughts, the Hall of Remembrance provides visitors with a tranquil refuge. The walls in this hexagonally shaped room encircle an eternal flame and are inscribed with the names of concentration and death camps. Visitors may light memorial candles in the Hall that symbolize renewed life and an act of remembrance.
The museum design and layout were clearly given a considerable amount of thought. Sharp angles and an industrial feel are the backbones to the intentional design elements that create an undeniable feel and atmosphere to the whole facility. I have been to numerous museums in several countries and never come across such a well thought out design.
Admission to the museum is free, although from March through August you will need time stamped passes to enter the Permanent Exhibition. These passes can be obtained at the museum on the day of your visit or in advance through this link; I would strongly urge you to get advanced tickets.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is open every day except Yom Kippur (September 23, 2015) and Christmas Day (December 25). The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:20 p.m., with extended hours in the spring. They also have an app to assist you with your visit, more information on that here. If you are traveling by DC Metro, the closest metro stop is “Smithsonian“. If you would like additional information on the museum, visit their official site here.