I was lucky enough to have some free time in
If you ever get the chance, take a foreign tourist through
The capital takes on a whole new meaning when viewed through the eyes of a foreign visitor. I was particularly honored to hijack one mf my friends from
I did not, however, spend all my time as tour guide. Being on my own in DC gave me a rare opportunity. I went to visit the Holocaust Museum. Perched one block back from the Mall, the museum has a Victorian fortress like feel to it. It is one of the newer national museums in
I entered the building through the now ubiquitous security screening foyer. I was wanded, patted and scrutinized by several “special police”, essentially armed security guards – they are thick as flies in
I picked from the male pile. My chosen card reflected the story of a young Jehovah’s Witness from
Moving slowly through the exhibits, the visitor is immersed in the events. Beset by photographs, first person testimonials and video, I could imagine the tightening circumstances for Jews within
I will not burden you with the details of the museum; suffice to say that it is comprehensive and relentless. The facility was also hosting an examination of propaganda, as exemplified in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and a look at
What I found most intriguing were the patrons of the museum. There were older people (folks who may have lived through the conflict that was World War II), there were younger groups (some clearly Jewish by virtue of their yarmulke) and then the most interesting of all, young military men. These young men were outfitted in what I would describe as typical off duty wear of American soldiers everywhere. Short cargo pants, polo shirts, running shoes and a gi-normous backpack (typically with a water bladder inside). These men moved quietly and reverently through the museum. They seemed most taken by the discussions and displays of the American military’s role in liberating the camps and the decision not to bomb the camps. It was in this persona, more than any other, that I felt compelled to visit this museum.
At the conclusion of the tour is a large hall of remembrance. There the names of the primary places of lass were inscribed on the wall. Votive candles flickered in alcoves along the six sided room. An eternal flame burned along one side of the stone room. As I set alight one of the candles, I reflected on what role we have played as a military and a nation in the face of events like these. In almost every instance it seems like we have not done enough.
And yet, I also take some heart in knowing that we have always done something. As a nation, we have struggled with the expenditure of our blood and treasure in service to the defenseless. But when unleashed, we have expended every ounce of each.
The visit was sad and difficult. It was also necessary and uplifting. It buoyed me to know that humanity could act to save itself. That it can learn from its mistakes and that sacrifices made for one’s fellow human are never in vain.