Holocaust Remembrance Day 2011 – Memories

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day*.

USHMM On 26 April 1993 the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened to the public in Washington DC.   His Holiness the Dalai Lama was the first visitor.  A few weeks later, and in an exceptionally hot and humid summer, I was also a visitor.  So many wanted to visit that it was very hard to get a ticket that weekend.  I remember walking through the railway car exhibit at the museum, realising how little space these poor people had during transportation.  I remember walking down one aisle so thick with people that I could not really see the exhibits in the glass cases on either side.  Having read Chil Rajchman’s Treblinka: A Survivor’s Memory last weekend, I now realise that these people had even less space than I had in that aisle that day.  And they couldn’t move.  And they stood like that for hours.

In his memoir, Rajchman turns a corner to encounter a pile of shoes from the dead.  A pile of shoes four stories high.  There is a sense that perhaps this was the moment when he realised the scale of the operation in which he found himself.  I remember turning a corner in the museum in 1993 and smelling shoes.  And then I saw the pile: shoes of every size.  From victims all.

I vowed that weekend to return to the museum and I will.  It may not be possible to understand, but it is always possible to learn.

Find the museum here and follow them on twitter here.

[Photograph above from Andy961’1 photostream on flickr.]

*Today is the first day of Holocaust Remembrance Week.

2 thoughts on “Holocaust Remembrance Day 2011 – Memories

  1. Minnie

    How apposite, the shoes … and how terrible, too.
    Hadn’t heard of Chil Rajchman. You’ve probably already read Viktor Frankl, Primo Levi & Elie Wiesel; if not, they’re all highly recommended. You’re so right in intimating this horror should never be forgotten.

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