Today’s little trip was by no means a joyful one, but was certainly hugely educational and emotional. Noa took me to the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum, which contains more information than just about any person can comprehend about the culling of the Jews (and other religions, races and whatnot) that the Nazis decided the world would be better off without.
It really is a harrowing place, though for obvious reasons given its geographical location concentrates most heavily on the Jewish aspect. I learned a lot when I was there as the story doesn’t stop when the war ends. Unknown to me, courtesy of my lousy history education, Britain pretty much ruled the roost of Israel around 1945 and refused to allow Jews who’d fled Germany into the country. Most other countries also closed their doors to them when they tried to escape from Germany prior to the war beginning. Too many people turned their heads and looked away. Shameful.
The imagery using is pretty brutal and doesn’t pull any punches. Like the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, this place rightfully believes that you can’t appreciate the horror without seeing it at its worst. Photographs are on display of people being hanged, shot and buried. Details are available of the “living” conditions in the concentration camps and the sheer numbers of people killed, tortured, experimented on. Poems by 14 year olds are on walls… followed by the date those same children were slaughtered.
The site doesn’t just contain the museum, but also a reference library detailing every single Jew killed during and around the war. People are invited to submit information on friends or relatives not yet included. There is a memorial hall, a garden of remembrance, trees planted and dedicated to non-Jews who helped save lives and a separate monument to the children killed – in excess of one million.
This is the one that really got to me. Inside this small structure is a darkened room with mirrored walls and a handful of lights which are reflected myriad times. Each light representing a child’s life. A light extinguished like a worthless candle by the Nazi war machine. As you stand in the near darkness, a voice reads out a different name and age every few seconds. It only takes a minute for the whole weight of the numbers to settle on your shoulders and make you realise how awful a place the world can be.
I congratulate the people who have set this site up for keeping attention focussed on one of the worst massacres in human history, and for not missing out a single detail. For not shying away from pointing a finger of blame at any country which refused to lift a finger, or delayed in doing so. And for presenting it so well. It’s truly a beautifully designed “attraction” and worth a visit… no, demands a visit from any visitor to Jerusalem.
Leaving the museum at closing time, Noa drove me to her house where I met her brothers and mother (at last!). We decided that Jewish mothers are pretty much like Scottish grandmothers in that they will not allow you to leave their house without eating at least a certain amount of food. After forcing me to eat far too much fresh fruit (I protested so much), Noa took clippers to my head and readied my hair for Download. I’m sure she nicked my scalp on purpose.
And then back to the hostel for my last night on the roof. I was really going to miss this place. And the free wireless.