The United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) is the U.S. official memorial to the Holocaust. Adjacent to the National Mall in Washington,
D.C., the USHMM
provides for the documentation, study and interpretation of Holocaust history.
It is dedicated to helping leaders and citizens of the world confront hatred,
prevent genocide, promote human dignity and strengthen democracy.
With an operating budget of just under
$78.7 million ($47.3 million from Federal sources and $31.4 million from private
donations) in 2008, the Museum has a staff of about 400 employees, 125
contractors, 650 volunteers, 91 Holocaust survivors and 175,000 members. It has
local offices in New York, Boston, Boca Raton, Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas.
Since its dedication on the 22nd of
April 1993, the Museum has welcomed nearly 30 million visitors, including more
than 8 million school children. It has also welcomed 91 heads of state and more
than 3,500 foreign officials from over 132 countries. The Museum's visitors come
from all over the world, and more than 90 percent of the Museum's visitors are
not Jewish. Its website had 25 million visits in 2008 from an average of 100
different countries daily. 35% of these visits were from outside the United
States, including more than 238,000 visits from Muslim-majority countries.
The USHMM’s collections contain more
than 12,750 artifacts, 49 million pages of archival documents, 80,000 historical
photographs, 200,000 registered survivors, 1,000 hours of archival footage,
84,000 library items, and 9,000 oral history testimonies. It also has teacher
fellows in every state in the United States and has welcomed almost 400
university fellows from 26 countries since 1994.
As we walked in the door we were
asked to randomly choose a profile card each. We read them straight away.
Bear’s was Zigmond Adler. Born on the 18th of July 1936 in
parents were Czechoslovakian Jews who had emigrated to Belgium. His mother,
Rivka, was a shirt maker. She had come to Belgium as a young woman to find a
steady job, following her older brother, Jermie, who had moved his family to
Liege several years earlier. In Liege, Rivka met and married Otto Adler, a
businessman. The couple looked forward to raising a family. Zigmond was born in
1936, but his mother died one year later. His father remarried, but it didn’t
last. His father married a third time, and soon Zigmond had a half-sister and a
stable family life. As a boy Zigmond often visited his Uncle Jermie’s just a few
blocks away. Zigmond was three when the Germans occupied Belgium. Two years
later, they deported his father for forced labour. After that Zigmond’s
stepmother left Liege, giving him to Uncle Jermie and Aunt Chaje. When the
Nazi’s began rounding up the Jews in the town, his uncles Catholic friends
helped them get false papers to hide their identity and rented them a house in a
nearby village. Two years later, early one Sunday, the Gestapo came the house.
They suspected Jews were living there. Zigmond, his aunt and two cousins were
sent to Mechelen internment camp, and then to Auschwitz, where seven-year-old
Zigmond was gassed on the 21st of May 1944. (Our anniversary and that of Julie).
Mine was Feige Schwarzfink. Born on the 8th May 1925 in Szydlowiec, Poland.
Feige was born to a religious Jewish
family in the small village of Szydlowiec. She lived with her parents, six
brothers and sisters, and elderly grandparents in a small house which, like many
homes in the village, had no running water, indoor plumbing or
Feige’s father was a shoemaker. “In the
afternoons after public school I studied at a Jewish religious school. Although
my parents didn’t know it, I attended meetings of the Bund, the Jewish Society
party. My older brothers and I liked going to the Bund because of the nice
people who belonged, rather than Bund’s political activities. On the 1st of
September 1939, the Germans invaded Poland and by the 9th they reached
Szydlowiec. The Germans put the village under 6 p.m. curfew and closed the
I November 1942 the Germans chased us
out of our home; that same day I was seized with my sister, Esther and other
young Jewish girls, we were forced to walk to a labour camp at Skarszysko. There
I worked 12-hour shifts - some all day, some all night – in a munitions factory
producing shells. For this grueling days work we received one slice of bread, a
bowl of soup and some ersatz coffee. My sister and I didn’t drink the coffee; we
used it to wash our hair, which was always dirty and
Feige was sent to another labour camp
and three concentration camps before being liberated on the 30th of April 1945,
by the American Army. She emigrated to the U.S. in 1949.
After bimbling around for a couple of hours we both looked at each
others hand. We were both still clutching our
History: On the 1st of November 1978, President
established the President’s Commission on the Holocaust, chaired by Holocaust
survivor Elie Wiesel. Its
mandate was to investigate the creation and maintenance of a memorial to victims
of the Holocaust and an appropriate annual commemoration to them. On the 27th of
September 1979, the Commission presented its report to the President,
recommending the establishment of a national Holocaust memorial museum in
Washington, D.C. with three main components: a national museum/memorial, an
educational foundation, and a Committee on Conscience.
unanimous vote by the United States
Congress in 1980 to
establish the museum, the federal government made available 1.9 acres of land
adjacent to the Washington
construction. Under Director Jeshajahu Weinberg and Chairman Miles Lerman, nearly $190 million was raised from private sources for
building design, artifact acquisition, and exhibition creation. In October 1988,
President Ronald Reagan helped lay the cornerstone of the building, designed by
ceremonies on the 22nd of April 1993 included speeches by American President
Bill Clinton, Israeli President Chaim Herzog, Chairman Harvey Meyerhoff, and Elie Wiesel. On the 26th
of April 1993, the Museum opened to the general public. Its first visitor was
the 14th Dalai
Lama of Tibet.
the Museum’s governing body, the United States Holocaust Memorial Council,
elected Sara J. Bloomfield to be the USHMM’s second director. Under Bloomfield’s
leadership, the Museum has created various leadership programs, including the
establishment of the National Institute for Holocaust Education, Center for
Advanced Holocaust Studies, and Academy for Genocide Prevention. She has also
played leading roles in opening the International Tracing
negotiating the first-ever loan of Anne Frank’s original writings, professionally advising museums
such as the Jewish Museum
Argentine government’s memorial to the Dirty War, the Holocaust museum in Buenos Aires, the memorial committee at Ground Zero in New
York, and the Iraq Memory
inception, the USHMM has been under constant threat of violence from extremist
groups. In 2002, a federal jury convicted White supremacists Leo Felton and
Erica Chase of planning to bomb a series of institutions associated with
American black and Jewish communities, including the USHMM. On the 10th of June
2009, 88-year-old anti-Semite James von Brunn shot Museum security
Tyrone Johns. Johns and von Brunn were both seriously wounded and transported by
ambulance to The George Washington University
later died of his injuries and is now permanently honored in an official
memorial at the USHMM. Von Brunn, who had a previous criminal record, had been
disowned by his family and was being tried in federal court when he died on the
6th of January 2010 in Butner federal
prison in North
were processed through the entrance (airport type security) it never occurred to
me why the guards let Bear in with his water but made me drink my Diet Coke or
throw it there and then.
makes perfect sense, hatred is still rife. Water does not stain exhibits, Coke
does. How very sad.
Exhibitions: The USHMM contains two exhibitions that have been open continuously
since 1993 and numerous rotating exhibitions that deal with various topics
related to the Holocaust and human rights.
Panoramic view of the Hall of
Hall of Remembrance: The Hall of Remembrance is the USHMM's official memorial to the
eleven million victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Visitors can memorialise
the event by lighting candles, visiting the eternal flame and reflecting in
silence in the hexagonal hall.
Bridges in the USHMM, looking through glass with all the affected towns etched
Permanent Exhibition: Using more than 900 artifacts, 70 video monitors and four theaters
showing historic film footage and eyewitness testimonies, the USHMM’s Permanent
Exhibition is the most visited exhibit at the Museum. Upon entering large
industrial elevators on the first floor, visitors are given identification
cards, each of which tells the story of a random victim or survivor of the
Holocaust. Upon exiting these elevators on the fourth floor, visitors walk
through a chronological history of the Holocaust, starting with the Nazi rise to
power, 1933-1939. Topics dealt with include Aryan ideology, Kristallnacht, Antisemitism, and
the American response to Nazi Germany. Visitors continue walking to the third
floor, where they learn about ghettos and the Final Solution.
The PE ends on the second floor with the liberation of concentration
camps by Allied forces and
a continuously looped film of Holocaust survivor testimony. First-time visitors
spend an average of two to three hours in this self-guided exhibition. Due to
certain images and subject matter, it is recommended for visitors 11 years of
age and older. To enter the Permanent Exhibition between March and August,
visitors must acquire free timed passes from the Museum on the day of the visit
or online for a service fee. Ours was 3:15, we got into a lift and exited in to
a vast area, we found a very comprehensive collection of exhibits and
information – not only new to us but powerfully emotional and thought
Remember the Children: Daniel's Story: Remember the Children: Daniel's Story is an exhibition designed to explain the Holocaust to elementary and
middle school children. Opened in 1993, and reviewed by psychiatrists, it tells
the story of Daniel, a fictitious child based on a collection of true stories
about children during the Holocaust. Due to its popularity among families, it is
still open to the public today.
Stephen Tyrone Johns Memorial: In October 2009, the USHMM unveiled a memorial plaque in honor of
Special Officer Stephen Tyrone
Johns. In response to the outpouring of grief
and support after the shooting on the 10th of June 2009, it has also established
the Stephen Tyrone Johns Summer Youth Leadership Program. Each year, 50
outstanding young people from the Washington, D.C. area will be invited to the
USHMM to learn about the Holocaust in honor of Johns' memory.
Collections: The USHMM has one of the largest and most comprehensive collections
of Holocaust-related materials in the world, separated into eight collection
divisions: Archives, Arts and Artifacts, Film and Video, Music, Oral History,
Photograph, Management, and Conservation.
The Museum’s holdings include art,
books, pamphlets, advertisements, maps, film and video historical footage, audio
and video oral testimonies, music and sound recordings, furnishings,
architectural fragments, models, machinery, tools, microfilm and microfiche of
government documents and other official records, personal effects, personal
papers, photographs, photo albums, and textiles. This information can be
accessed through online databases or by visiting the USHMM. Researchers from all
over the world come to the USHMM Library and Archives and the Benjamin and
Vladka Meed Registry of Holocaust Survivors.
We visited the shop that had the greatest collection of books and DVD’s we have
ever seen on this incredible subject, as well as the fridge magnet, pins,
postcards etc you would expect to find. We bought a boxed set of DVD’s
containing material neither of us have watched on Dr. Mengele and some of the
concentration camps. We were very fortunate that a survivor was selling his
artwork and signing autographs for people, also happy to chat about his
experiences. Very humbling.
ALL IN ALL WE
SHOULD NEVER FORGET
MAKES FOR SILENT THOUGHT