On December 15, 2018 I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC for the first time. It was an experience I will never forget. Being surrounded by the history, the stories, and the hardships people endured during that time left me speechless.
The museum itself was not what I had expected; it was eerily quiet, and if anyone spoke it was in whispers. The first floor, crowded with people, was just as quiet as the second floor with barely anyone on it. It was so very clear the impact every exhibit had on everyone, including myself. When I first walked inside, the group I was in was taken to an elevator and given an “identification card.” Inside each card was the story of a real person who had been a prisoner during the Holocaust. We were told to read certain parts of the card throughout our tour; my group found each story to be haunting. Pictures and cases displaying outfits the Jews had worn in concentration camps captured my attention. I spent 20 minutes just reading the descriptions of points in history that hung on the walls.
The last leg of our tour is what stuck with me the most, though. Bunk beds that people had slept on in concentration camps were on display. A glass case held hundreds of shoes that actual victims had worn. An iron gate that was taken from outside of a hospital people were rushed to during that time stood in that very room. Hundreds of pictures of real people who perished in the Holocaust lined the walls, covering a whole room. Seeing these exhibits just made what those innocent people went through so much more real in my eyes.
When I left it really sunk in why everyone was so quiet in the museum; after seeing history laid out before my eyes, it was hard to find words, and silence was everyone’s unspoken respect. What I saw in the National Holocaust Museum really gave me a new perspective on the freedoms we have in America and the value in preserving them. It was an experience I won’t ever forget, and I would recommend visiting the U.S. Holocaust Museum to anyone who would have the chance.