I went to the Holocaust Museum and was awash in a sea of overwhelming emotion for a full 4 hours. I told Kevin that the last time I was affected so personally by an exhibition was when I went to the JFK Museum in Dallas. But even that pales so much in comparison. (That feels like comparing the view from the Water Tower in Washington Heights to one atop the crags of the Grand Canyon.)

I know of the Holocaust. I have even read Elie Wiesel. But nothing could have ever prepared me for the horror as told by the museum. From Germany to Bulgaria to Austria to France to Poland, thousands upon thousands of Jews died in the most horrific manners. Men, women and children all suffered the same fate under the inhuman hand and darkest heart of the Nazis. Hangings. Firings. Burnings. Mutilating experiments. Lethal injections. Gas chambers. Death marches. All these went on simultaneously and endlessly against people picked solely by the arch of their nose, the color of their skin and the blood through their veins. Voices of Auschwitz survivors recounting their stories filled one room. (How much sorrow can one room hold?) The uniforms of internment camps were hung on poles. (How much anguish can a piece of clothing carry?) The shoes of the dead were piled one on top of the other in a muted yet most powerful display. The hairs sheared off the Jews before they were tricked into the gas chambers (believing that they were being led into a delousing shower) formed a sad, still ocean of gold and brown and grey wavy locks. Pictures of men and women and portraits of families that were the only remnants of a Russian ghetto after a series of pogroms and the execution of the “final solution” on the community rise up into a towering wall of testament to the tyranny of absolute evil. Video footage and still photos that documented the indescribable inhumanity of the Nazi empire rumbled on and on in most frightening displays. It ended in 1945 but it was already too late. The irreparable damage had already been done. Hellfire that was Hitler’s army had already razed so much of the earth on Western and Eastern Europe for almost 10 years. Whole communities had died and whole centuries of culture had already been wiped off the face of the earth.

“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness,” said Elie Wiesel. This was the inscription at the end of the museum exhibition which led into the Hall of Remembrance. This space was shaped like the Star of David. The hall jutted into a towering dome whose top was swathed with sublime panes of glass. They filtered the warm rays of the sun into the solemn space lit by a hundred candles which lined its corners where on black walls were written the many internment camps and gas chambers where the Jews were murdered. Dachau. Treblinka. Bergen Blesen. Auschwitz. The candles continued to flicker as if defiantly, raging against erasing the memory of this most horrifying chapter in the annals of human history. Even higher up on the walls were inscriptions from the Torah that echoed the cries of humanity to the Father which until now commuted to sheer soundless screams that shook the very stone foundations of the Hall. At its center was one bright flame which illuminated the hope in all as described in the Book of Deuteronomy. To remember is not only to honor the memory but is also to fulfill an oblitgation to one’s conscience. Man was once a monster (absolutetly as perpetrator and also as bystander) and never again should he be allowed to be one. Only if we continue to remember will we learn to not be condemned to the same evil.

I have never cried so much for so many people in a single hallowed space. I feel as if I can never cry enough. I can only try to remember and remain witness. I can never do enough and yet I am compelled to do what I should.

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