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Schwartz, Delmore. If you think the public deserves to see these vehicles preserved and interpreted, please visit the National Armor and Cavalry Heritage Foundation and consider making a contribution to the museum's future. Labels: Museums. I wrote this review fall for one of my public history courses.
I revisited the museum in January , during which time I took the pictures included. At this time, a multimedia exhibit called "The Memory Project" had taken the place of the introduction video. I observed no other changes to the museum. The answer became clearer as I began my tour. Prior to entering the galleries, visitors watch a short introductory film, which covers the Jewish experience prior to the Holocaust and the story of the museum's founding.
Henry Kellen, a survivor of the Holocaust, founded the museum in as a single room in the Jewish Community Center, using his personal story and collection of artifacts. A plaque in the memorial section of the museum reveals that his wife, also a survivor, died one year prior to the museum's founding. It's possible that her death inspired Mr. Kellen to honor both the dead and the survivors by teaching a new generation about the atrocities that swallowed Europe in the twentieth century.
In , he moved the museum to its own building, which tragically burned in The present museum opened in A couple of cabinets with a bunch of Nazi artifacts, many of which don't have any labels. This very personal museum tells a story about the millennia of oppression and persecution faced by Jews, which culminated in the twentieth century with the Holocaust.
I followed the chronological path of Germany's Jews as Hitler's rise to power shattered the illusion of peace after ages of struggle. From there, my path continued past the devastation of Kristalnacht, through deportations and ghettos, to the concentration camps. My tour concluded with the liberation of the camps and memorials honoring those who died, those who lived, and those who helped others escape death.
The introductory video continued throughout the galleries, explaining the pertinent events with segments like "The Rise of Nazism," "Deportation from the Ghettos," and "The Final Solution. My impression was that this museum wanted visitors to experience history, rather than read it. The jarring transition into Nazi Germany. The construction of the actual galleries contributed greatly to the active experience. My tour began conventionally, staring at an example of an twentieth century Jewish dining room behind a glass case.
Very little distinguished it as "Jewish," suggesting that the Jews had finally found acceptance in European society after millennia of persecution.
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A helpful timeline on the opposite wall detailed this lengthy struggle. This portrayal of normalcy enhanced the shock I felt upon entering the next gallery, where the walls featured large images of Adolf Hitler and crowds of uniformed Nazis tinted a vibrant and jarring red. The center cases enclosed Nazi headgear, lit from below, adding to the sinister feeling in the room. My tour through Nazi Germany continued with a wall of reproduction anti-Semitic propaganda posters, cartoons, and advertisements.
Now in a German street, I saw a shop front destroyed during the violence of Kristalnacht. Unfortunately, a cartoony quality to this environment evoked thoughts of Disneyworld rather than disaster. Past Kristalnacht, I saw a train car protruding from the wall of the next gallery. If I hadn't recognized it already, at this point I found it impossible to deny the influence of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which opened in Washington D.
Upon my last visit to Washington, I had walked through just such a train car. On the other side of this train car, a staircase led me down to the entrance to a concentration camp. This gallery also included the facade of a barracks, an example of a gas chamber, and a reproduction of a crematorium oven. The story focused on the dehumanization and murder of prisoners in concentration camps. Any amusement I felt at the tiny gate and tower dissipated quickly. The rest of the museum serves as a memorial. The next gallery talked some about resistance, but an entire wall commemorated those who saved others from death, declared "The Righteous of the Nations" by Yad Vashem, the holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.
A few moments were spent on the liberation of the camps, where the museum found the opportunity to make a local connection. The images and stories of liberators from El Paso adorned the last wall in the gallery. The final room contained a memorial to both the dead and the survivors. One last local connection recognized all the survivors who settled in El Paso after escaping Europe.
Quite plainly, this museum does not tell the entire story of the Holocaust, but the Jewish experience of the Holocaust.