Holocaust Museum

Beez Neez
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Sun 14 Aug 2011 22:57
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 



14th street entrance 


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.  



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As we walked in the door we were asked to randomly choose a profile card each. We read them straight away.



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Bear’s was Zigmond Adler. Born on the 18th of July 1936 in Liege, Belgium.

Zigmond’s 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).


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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 electricity.

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 schools.

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 lice-infested.”

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.


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After bimbling around for a couple of hours we both looked at each others hand. We were both still clutching our cards. 



History: On the 1st of November 1978, President Jimmy Carter 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.

After a 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 Monument for 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 James Ingo Freed. Dedication 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.

In 1999, 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 Service archive, negotiating the first-ever loan of Anne Frank’s original writings, professionally advising museums such as the Jewish Museum Berlin, the 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 Foundation.

Since its 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 guard Stephen Tyrone Johns. Johns and von Brunn were both seriously wounded and transported by ambulance to The George Washington University Hospital. Johns 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 Carolina.

When we 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.

Now it 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 Remembrance

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 on



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 provoking.


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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.

Shop: 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.




Replica of a Holocaust train boxcar used by Nazi Germany to transport Jews and other victims during The Holocaust











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