Since my last post, which I think was about 3 weeks ago, I've been staying busy. Hiking almost everyday and I spent a week visiting friends in Orange County, California, which included one's famous (and yummy!) grilled-4-cheese sandwiches while waiting on the trick-or-treaters on Halloween. My friends have converted their back patio area into the coolest pirate-themed bar EVER, complete with a hand-made wooden bar and decorations that would make even Disney proud. So much time, effort and money has been put into it (and some of us contributing more stuff whenever possible), that you want to spend as much time back there as possible. Even on chilly nights, which was every night I was there.
Aside from a few grave-rabbit errands in the Westminster area, I talked three of my friends into a visit to the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum. I've been wanting to go for years, ever since I went to the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, back in 1999. It's so sad to say, but I was not taught about the Holocaust in school. I'm forty, and I don't know whether it was a "don't teach" subject or because I was raised in a small southern town, but I didn't know anything about it until "Schindler's List" came out in 1993 (a movie I highly recommend). That is such a sad commentary on our school system. We learned about WWII and we knew about Anne Frank (I'm not sure if we read it or watched the movie), but I never really understood why she and her family were hiding. I guess I just thought they were criminals or because they didn't want to be Nazi's.
The differences between the Los Angeles and the national museums are, obviously, the size, and the nature of many of the exhibits. I spent hours in the national museum and still had to rush through (I was there on business and had to sight-see between planned events over the course of three days...May is National Law Enforcement Week in DC, when cops like me overrun the city). I would recommend the museum highly to anyone visiting Washington, DC... above many other things to see while you are there. I especially recommend it to families with children old enough to understand the tragedy and everything they have at the museum, to prevent it from ever happening again in future generations. I remember as we entered, each person is given a passport with the story of a different Jewish victim. As you go room to room, you turn a page in the passport and get to know more about your person. You won't know if he/she survived until the last page. That's an eye opener. There is a real train-car used in one of the concentration camps, as well as detailed scale models of the camps as well.
One of the most striking exhibits in the national museum is the Tower of Faces, the 17-year creation of Yaffa Eliach. This exhibit is so powerful, that I promptly went home to do some research. I am half-Lithuanian (to my knowledge, according to my genealogist mother, there are no relatives or ancestors of Jewish decent, but with so many huge Jewish comunities there, it is entirely possible that there were) and the faces of the Tower represent the Lithuanian town of Eishyshok. There was a large Jewish population there, which had existed for nine CENTURIES, before the Nazi's came and completely decimated it, practically overnight. When you walk into the tower, you are on a ramp, and surrounding you, climbing two stories above you and another story below you, are 1,600 photos of the citizens of Eishyshok. It really puts things in perspective.
There are so many outstanding exhibits at the national museum I could blog about, but it just has to be seen in person to really appreciate it. It's a true learning experience for all ages and religions.
If you live on the west coast and can't get to the U.S. Museum in DC, then The Los Angeles Holocaust Museum is also interesting, but obviously on a much smaller scale. I believe we were there for 2-3 hours. The majority of the exhibits are donated items, clothing, flags, etc. There is a replica train car and a very detailed miniature model of the Sobibor Extermination Camp. This is a self-guided museum. When you enter, you will be given a smart-phone device and a set of earphones (note: if you wear glasses, the earphones may cause headaches), and each item is numbered, so you just enter it on the device. In the first room is an inter-active table, which you'll see has photos floating on it. If you touch any photo, it will bring up the personal information for that person. It's similar to the passports given at the National museum. There is also a room that has numerous TV monitors scattered about, each featuring a history of a different concentration camp and their victims.
George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." There are few horrific events in history that should be remembered and avoided more than the Holocaust. There are still ridiculous pockets of people who still believe the murder of 6 million Jews is a fabrication and never happened. If you meet one of these idiots, please slap the shit out of them for me! Denial is no reason for ignorance. If you are unfamiliar with the Holocaust, as I was, please do the research and plan a trip with your family and friends to a museum near you. There are several scattered throughout the country. If you get to DC, DEFINITELY plan a few hours there. It's very difficult to walk away unaffected.