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April 10, 2013

Where was Barak Obama on Holocaust Remembrance Day?

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 10:26 am

As far as I can determine, President Obama did not show up in person at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC to pay his respects, inside the Hall of Remembrance, to the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

The following quote is from this website:

President Barack Obama, who visited Yad Vashem on his trip to Israel last month, issued a statement saying the day offered a chance to remember the “beautiful lives lost” and to “pay tribute to all those who resisted the Nazis’ heinous acts and all those who survived.”

Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that the President of the United States, the leader of the free world, thinks that his visit to Yad Vashem last month takes care of his responsibility to “pay tribute” in person at our Holocaust Museum in the nation’s capitol on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I previously blogged about Obama’s statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January 2012 here.

The photo below shows the 14th Street entrance into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; there is another entrance, on the other side of the building on 15th Street.

Entrance to United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Entrance to United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

On the ground floor of the Museum, there is a lighted glass stripe, which cuts across the floor of the Hall of Witness. The stripe is at a slight angle, as is everything in the Hall of Witness. Nothing is lined up straight with the walls; everything is out of kilter so that you get the subtle suggestion that something is not quite right here. The stairs to the second floor, at one end of the Hall of Witness, look like a ladder in a picture which appears to be smaller at the top.

The Hall of Witness is shown in the photo below.

The Hall of Witness inside the USHMM

The Hall of Witness inside the USHMM

At the top of the stairs in the Hall of Witness is a gentle arch which is an exact duplicate of the arch over the doorway of the brick gatehouse at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The photo below shows the “Gate of Death” at Auschwitz-Birkenau, through which the trains, carrying the Hungarian Jews, rolled into the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944.

Gentle arch over the gate into the Birkenau death camp

Gentle arch over the gate into the Birkenau death camp

The Hungarian Jews are important in the Holocaust saga because 400,000 of them were gassed in only 10 weeks time. The railroad line was extended into the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, right up to the gas chambers.  Most of the famous Holocaust survivors today are Hungarian Jews, who managed to escape the gas chambers.  Each survivor has his or her own story of how they beat the system and lived to write a book, documenting the horror.

The USHMM has permanent exhibits, which begin on the fourth floor and continue down to the third floor, then down to the second floor where the exit leads visitors into the Hall of Remembrance. Visitors must take an elevator to the fourth floor, where the first thing they see when the elevator door opens is a giant photo of bodies that were burned on railroad ties.  This photo purportedly proves that the evil Nazis burned Jews alive at Ohrdruf, which was the first camp seen by American soldiers.

The photo below shows the six-sided Hall of Remembrance, where ceremonies are held in honor of the 6 million who died in the Holocaust.

The Hall of Remembrance at the USHMM

The Hall of Remembrance at the USHMM

The 6,000 square-foot Hall of Remembrance, shown in the photo above, is on the second floor of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC at the end of the tour of the permanent exhibit. The room has 6 sides which represent the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, and the 6-pointed Star of David, which is the Jewish emblem.

The 6 walls of the Hall of Remembrance have black marble panels, engraved with the names of the major concentration camps in Poland and Germany. The 6 death camps, where the Jews were gassed, are on a separate panel. The six death camps were Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Trebkinka,  Auschwitz and Majdanek.

The Hall is three stories high and there is a 6-sided skylight at the top. The floor of the Hall of Remembrance is polished marble in a hexagonal pattern.

Six-sided skylight at the top of the Hall of Remembrance

Six-sided skylight at the top of the Hall of Remembrance

As you enter the Hall of Remembrance, the first thing you see is a rectangular block of black marble, topped by an eternal flame, as shown in the photo below. There are no real windows in the room but shafts of light are provided by narrow glass-covered slits at the four exterior corners of the building.

The altar topped by an eternal flame in the Hall of Remembrance

The altar topped by an eternal flame in the Hall of Remembrance

The photograph above shows a closeup of the black marble block, evocative of a coffin, which contains dirt from 38 of the concentration camps in Europe. The dirt was brought to America in urns, like those used by the Nazis for the ashes of the victims who were cremated, and in a touching ceremony, the dirt was deposited inside the block by Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

Dirt from a cemetery in Europe, where American soldiers are buried, was also included, in honor of the American liberators of the Dachau, Buchenwald and Mauthausen concentration camps.

The black marble panel on the wall behind the eternal flame has this inscription: “Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life. And you shall make them known to your children and to your children’s children.”

On the other side of the Hall, opposite the eternal flame, are two speaker’s stands, one on each side, resembling two pulpits in a church. It is from one of these stands that the President of the United States would have delivered his speech if he had gone to the Hall on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

As you might have guessed by now, the number 6 is of great importance in the story of the Holocaust. After the Jewish population of Palestine reached the magic number of 600,000, the country of Israel was born in 1948.

March 9, 2010

The Catholic Church – it’s not what it used to be

On Sunday, I attended Mass at a Catholic Church, the first time in many years.  A family member is dating a girl who says she is “half Catholic.”  I know that the Nazis categorized some people has “half Jews,” but “half Catholic?”  Has the Catholic church changed so much that there are now “half Catholics”?

Anyway, I was happy to see that the largest and oldest Catholic Church in my city still has the original high altar.  In the old days, the priest would say Mass in Latin with his back to the people in the church.  Now the the priest says the mass in English in American churches, and he faces the audience.  Many churches have removed the high altar, since it is no longer used.

For example, the photo below shows a church in the town of Geseke in Germany, which has an empty space where the altar used to be.

Empty space where altar used to be in a Catholic Church

Two years ago, when I visited the church shown above, I was totally shocked to see that, not only had the altar been completely removed, but there were Jewish symbols displayed at a side altar.

Side altar in Catholic church has a menorah and a Star of David

There was never a large Jewish population in Geseke and as far as I know, there were no Jews from the town who died in the Holocaust.  That is what is so shocking about this display. While I was standing in front of this side altar, with my mouth hanging open in disbelief, a woman in the church came up to me and directed my attention to a  hanging sculpture, which is the only thing of beauty left in this church. The statue has two sides; in the photo, the choir loft is shown in the background.

Hanging statue inside St. Peter's Church in Geseke, Germany

St. Peter's Catholic Church in Geseke, Germany

I did a little research to find out if there are churches in America that display a menorah. I learned that there is a menorah in a Catholic Church in Boston; here is a quote from this blog:

In memory of Holocaust victims, Cardinal William Kasper, a top Vatican liaison to the Jewish people, rededicated a menorah at the Boston Archdiocese. He’s calling the menorah a reminder of “a common duty and a common responsibility” to promote peace among religions. The ceremony was held before about 200 people, including rabbis, priests, and Holocaust survivors.

The menorah was originally dedicated in 2002, but moved to a new home after the archdiocese sold its land to pay off debts. The recent dedication was on Wednesday in honor of Yom HaShoah.

I also found this quote on this web site:

More than 500 Jews and Catholics sat together in the pews of the Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe in Dallas to share in the unveiling and lighting of a menorah donated by the Center for Interreligious Understanding (CIU) in Secaucus, N.J.

The menorah, created by Israeli sculptor Aharon Bezalel, is one of 11 being placed in Catholic centers around the United States. The four-foot 380-pound menorah, which depicts men, women and children being led by a tallis-laden rabbi, is a replica of the Yom Hashoah Menorah presented to Pope John Paul II on April 13, 1999, which is on permanent display at the Vatican’s North American College.

Does America have a new religion now, that is half Catholic and half Jewish? Can’t Catholics have their own religion, without Jewish symbols? Does everything have to be about the Holocaust?

The photo below shows the Hall of Remembrance at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC which I think is evocative of the interior of a church.

The Hall of Remembrance at the USHMM in Washington, DC

The eternal flame on a box filled with dirt from 38 camps

The 6,000 square-foot Hall of Remembrance at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC is on the second floor, at the end of the tour of the permanent exhibit. There is a black marble box, filled with dirt from 38 different concentration camps, that is like an altar. The room has 6 sides which represent the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, and the 6-pointed Star of David, which is the Jewish emblem. The Hall is three stories high and there is a 6-sided skylight at the top.