Scrapbookpages Blog

April 13, 2013

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC is a “place of worship”

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 2:01 pm

My blog post today is in response to a comment made by one of my regular readers: “It does come across that the USHMM has an unhealthy “place of worship” air about it. More on that would be good.”

I agree with this reader’s pithy analysis of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a “place of worship.” But it is a place of worship for the goyim, not for the Jews. Most of the visitors, when I was there on two successive days in the year 2000, were high school students, who were mostly white or non-Jewish.  I did not see anyone that I could identify as Jewish.  I observed that all of the uniformed attendants who worked there were African American.

Located at 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Christmas Day and Yom Kippur, a Jewish religious holiday which falls on a different day each year, usually in the month of September. Every day, time-stamped tickets to the permanent exhibit are given out free; the line for tickets starts forming around 7:30 a.m. No ticket is necessary for the special exhibits, Daniel’s Story, and other parts of the museum, including the Wexler Learning Center where visitors can use touch-screen computers to learn about the Holocaust.

The subject of the Holocaust was virtually unknown in America until 1978 when a television mini-series, entitled Holocaust, was seen by 120 million people, about half the population of America at that time. A few weeks later, the announcement was made that a national Holocaust memorial was being planned in Washington, DC.

The massive museum building, designed by Jewish architect James Ingo Freed, was built on a 1.9 acre site where another building was torn down to make room for it. At the ground-breaking ceremony on October 16, 1985, soil from some of the Nazi concentration camps in Europe was mixed with the soil at the site. The building took 8 years to complete, at a cost of $168 million.

USHMM building on 15th Street

One side of USHMM building is on 15th Street

The USHMM is the only modern structure in this section of Washington, DC where all the other buildings feature classic architecture with Greek columns or traditional 19th century details. Neo-Classical architecture was the style favored by the world’s most famous amateur architect, Adolf Hitler, so that was not an option for America’s national Holocaust museum. The result is that the USHMM seems out of place, like a little Victorian house that is now surrounded by modern office buildings.

Holocaust Museum on the left with classic brick building on the right

USHMM on the left with classic brick building on the right and Washington monument in the background; 14th Street is in the foreground

From the moment that you first lay eyes on the USHMM, you are aware that this is a Jewish building. Everything about the building screams: JEWISH. Hitler would have called this style of architecture “entartete Kunst” (degenerate art).

The photo below shows the entrance to the building on the 15th Street side of the building.

15th Street entrance to USHMM

15th Street entrance to USHMM

The hexagonal part of the USHMM building is on the right. On the outside walls of the hexagon, above the panels where the quotations from four US Presidents are engraved, are squares that look like windows that have been closed up. The only windows in this part of the building are thin vertical cracks covered with glass at each of the four corners. The brick section of the building, which faces 15th Street, has no windows either. Once you are inside the building, you are closed off from the outside world.

In the photo above, note the glass-enclosed walkway at the top of the USHMM building; there are two more glass walkways on the west side of the building on the second and third floors. There are three other glass walkways which cross the top of the building, but they appear to be merely part of the design and not functional. These walkways connect the two sides of the building.  From these walkways, visitors can look down below at the main floor, called the Hall of Witness.

The interior of the museum was planned to integrate the architectural design with the exhibits. The Hall of Witness, as the main floor is called, is a huge atrium with a skylight that is four stories high. The huge skylight was deliberately designed to be off center and skewed, so as to convey to the visitor the impression that he has entered a world of madness where nothing makes sense. Likewise, the stairs were deliberately designed so that they are not at right angles to the wall. The whole effect suggests chaos and disorder; it is supposed to give visitors an idea of what the victims experienced emotionally.

A black marble wall at one end of the Hall of Witness has an inscription with words from the Bible: “You are my witnesses. Isaiah 43:10”

At the other end of the Hall of Witness, stairs lead to the basement level, called the Concourse. On the basement level, there is the Meyerhoff Theatre in the hexagonal space below the Hall of Remembrance. There is also a smaller theater called the Rubinstein Auditorium, which shows a film that one should see before going upstairs to the permanent exhibit.

A wall of Remembrance, called the Children’s Tile Wall, is also on the basement level. The wall has more than 3,000 colored tiles which form a memorial to the 1.5 million Jewish children who died in the Holocaust. The tiles look like the drawings and paintings made by children in the Theresienstadt ghetto during World War II.  Fortunately, the Nazis allowed the children to have an art teacher while they were imprisoned at Theresienstadt, and they saved the paintings and drawings before killing the Jewish children.

Tiles show pictures painted by children

Tiles show pictures painted by children

The USHMM tells visitors about the popular belief that, after Hitler had exterminated all the Jews, he was planning to establish a museum in Prague where visitors would be able to see artifacts related to the vanished Jewish culture. A valuable torah scroll from the Pinkus Synagogue in Prague, which Hitler was planning to display in his museum of Jewish history, is now one of the exhibits in the USHMM.

I previously blogged about Hitler’s proposed Museum of an Extinct Race here.

Special Exhibits, which change periodically, are displayed in the Kimmel-Rowan Exhibition Gallery on the Concourse level. There are also classrooms on this floor.

The permanent exhibits begin on the Fourth Floor and continue down to the Third Floor, then down to the Second Floor where there is an exit into the Hall of Remembrance.

The first thing that you see, when you step out of the elevator on the Fourth floor, to begin the tour of the permanent exhibit, is  a huge picture of American soldiers viewing the burned corpses of dead inmates at the Ohrdruf sub-camp of Buchenwald. The photo is about 8 feet high and 5 feet wide. Naive visitors are supposed to deduce from the photo that the evil Nazis burned prisoners alive in a LABOR camp, which is what Jewish professors in American universities teach their students.

The bodies were routinely burned in all the Nazi camps in an attempt to stop the spread of disease. This photo actually shows the burning of dead bodies in an effort to stop a typhus epidemic in the Ohrdruf camp.

The Wexler Learning Center is located on the second floor in the four towers on the north side of the building.

Front entrance on 14th Avenue, at the corner of Independence Avenue

Front entrance to the USHMM is on 14th Street, at the corner of Independence Avenue

The front of the building is actually on 14th Street, a very busy, divided two-way thoroughfare, that is shown in the photo above. That is where the main entrance is located. Directly across from the museum building on 14th street is the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has a classic building with Greek columns. Hotdog vendors set up their stands every day at lunchtime in front of the Agriculture building or in front of the building next to the museum.  Visitors are not allowed to eat inside the Museum.  The closest place to buy food is the Ross Center which is the red brick building that is right next to the 15th Street side of the building.

President Obama worships at the altar of the Holocaust

President Obama worships at the altar of the Holocaust

President Obama and Elie Wiesel worship in the Hall of Remembrance

President Obama and Elie Wiesel worship in the Hall of Remembrance

The entrance from the Eisenhower Plaza on the 15th street side (Raoul Wallenberg Place) is reserved for registered groups. When I was there in 2000, the guards were allowing anyone to enter, although the leaders of the school groups were trying to chase people away. At both entrances, there are X-ray machines like those at the airport. Visitors were allowed carry backpacks or cameras into the museum in 2000 when I was there, but photography was only allowed in the Hall of Remembrance.

The young students use the Hall of Remembrance as a place to gather for a souvenir photo.  Even though the place looks and feels like a weird pagan church, talking and laughing is allowed.

The line for tickets forms early in the morning on the north side of the building where there are benches and shade trees for the comfort of those who must wait until the museum opens at 10 a.m. The space here is very narrow and visitors sitting on the benches are staring at large panels of gray painted steel that look like covered windows; these steel panels separate the tower-like rooms. The whole building looks very intimidating, like a prison from which there is no escape.

For those who come in from the 15th street entrance, the desk for registered groups is the first thing you see. On the black marble wall to the left is a quotation: “All men are created equal…they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; …among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Declaration of Independence.” The author of these words, Thomas Jefferson, is not mentioned.

Why is the Declaration of Independence quoted in a Museum that is not about anything that happened in America, or about any atrocities committed by Americans?  None of the countries involved in the Holocaust had any document that said that “all men are created equal.”

An interior window, on the same wall with the Declaration of Independence quote, looks down on the Concourse, which is the basement level of the building. On the opposite wall, to the right of the entrance, is a quotation from George Washington: “The government of the United States…gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance. George Washington August 17, 1790”

There was plenty of bigotry and persecution in America during the years that the Holocaust happened.  America violated its own 4th Amendment to the Constitution to imprison Japanese-Americans and German-Americans in internment camps.  Shouldn’t America have a Museum to the people who were unjustly imprisoned in America, not a Museum for the Holocaust which didn’t happen in America?

According to information presented at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, there were 9 million Jews in all of Europe in 1933, including 568,417 in Germany, approximately 250,000 in Austria and 3,028,837 in Poland.

Many Holocaust survivors emigrated to the United States after World War II, and by 1990, there were 5,981,000 Jews in America, more Jews than in any other country of the world, including Israel.  They brought their stories of the Holocaust with them, and that must be why America has a Holocaust Museum in the nation’s Capitol.

In the year 2000, there were already 59 Holocaust museums in America, and more were in the planning stage. By 2000, seven states in America had passed laws requiring students to study the Holocaust in public schools.  Now virtually every school in America teaches the Holocaust, starting in Kindergarten.