I was not ashamed. It was not a sign of weakness.
But barely 10 minutes into the main hall of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, tears started flowing and I couldn’t help but sob.
What I was witnessing was one of the darkest periods in the history of mankind and the pictures, videos and other memorabilia are just too much for anyone to witness. The holocaust was just too much for anyone to comprehend.
I went to Jerusalem determined to visit Yad Vashem. After all, any visit to Israel and Jerusalem would not be complete without a visit to this infamous landmark.
Since its opening in the 1960’s, Yad Vashem has been a living testament to the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany to Jews all over Europe. It is believed that six million Jews perished during this dark moment in history, all for the craziness of one man, whose name I won’t event mention.
Israelis go here to pay respect to fallen friends, relatives and ancestors. The rest of the world go here so they may understand the depth of suffering people went through at the hands of the Nazis. They need to see so they will be constantly reminded of the things we should not do.
After weeks of preparation, I thought that I would be prepared for what I was going to see. But all my courage and strength of spirit, fell apart as soon as I grasp the depth of pain and hardship people went through.
Jews, regardless of age, and gender were pulled from the homes, loaded into train and sent to concentration camps. There, each family is given a loaf of bread that was supposed to nourish them for the week.
They were made to do a variety of manual labor, too strenuous that people started fainting due to sheer exhaustion and hunger. These continued for so long that people were already skin and bones at the end of their lives. Mass graves were made for thousands for each camp.
If you feel sad after reading that, that is nothing compared to what you will feel when you see the videos and the pictures.
I finally broke down when I saw a video of dead people being backhoed to a mass grave. That was just too much for me. People were staring at me while I was crying and I know that they were feeling the pain too.
|Hall of Names. Photo courtesy of yadvashem.org|
Other items in the museum include measurement tools used by Nazis to identify jews. In their absurd and twist logic, they were able to identify Jews by the color of their iris, sizes of their noses and faces.
There were also shoes, and clothes of the fallen.
At the earlier section of the museum, there were books written by Jews. If you remember your history, the Nazi regime asked all Jew-written books regardless of topic, to be burned at town halls. That’s the subject of “The Book Thief”.
But I think the main highlight of the museum is the Hall of Names. There, you will see the faces of the millions of people who passed away over a twisted concept of superiority. It gives you a reminder that we should not tolerate any form of discrimination or abuse against others.
After viewing the galleries, you will exit the museum and you will have good view of the mountain. I thought that that was deliberate so that somehow, the pain felt by the visitors will be assuaged by the gorgeous view of Mt. Herzl.
Looking back, I knew that I was gonna be in such a roller coaster of emotions as soon as I entered the main hall.
From the chaos of the visitors area/reception, a hush always falls over the crowd as soon as they enter the museum. They are not told to be quiet. there are no museum personnel telling them that. People automatically fall silent as a show of respect.
Visitors are discouraged from taking photos of the museum interiors since the galleries are quite controversial. But you can take photos outside of the museum.
The Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum is a powerful place.
It gives you a glimpse of how evil humans can be. Whether we like to accept it or not, humans are capable of atrocities beyond your wildest imagination. But those were in the past. It is up to us now to stay vigilant and wary against any effort to promote hate and discriminate.
I have visited Yad Vashem and it has a powerful impact on me. It changes you. And one thing is for sure, all the things I have seen, I will carry with me always.
Take a tram from Jerusalem going to Mt. Herzl. You won’t get lost since it is the last station. From the rotunda, take a hike towards the mountain and there are pathways leading you to the museum.
|A View of Mt. Herzl|