Washington DC – Day 4
Hard to believe but we’ve made to to Sunday, July 5th! The day after the Fourth of July! I wonder if it will be a little less busy this morning? The Fourth was a great day, but we’re up and at ’em again for another day of visiting DC.
Today is starting with a quick Metro ride down to the Mall, to head to the Holocaust Museum. Metro was uneventful, it sure is a quick and convenient way to get around. Out at Smithsonian station and a quick one-block walk to the museum. We arrived at about 10:30 AM, and managed to get tickets for the 11:30 entry. So the way this place works, is like many others, you have to get a free ticket to get in, but they only give them out the day of your visit. So the earlier you get there, the earlier you get a ticket. And the tickets are for the big permanent exhibit, not the smaller exhibits that are also around that you can wander through.
Have to tell you that there is security all around Washington DC. In many places our bags had to be X-ray’d, we’d walk through metal detectors, or our bags would be inspected. But the Holocaust Museum had the most strict security. Rhonda had the backpack at the time, and she had to take a drink from each of our water bottles to prove that it was water in them. They take security very seriously.
After picking up our tickets, we had the good fortune of meeting up with one of the museum volunteers, who gave us about a 30 minute talk on how the museum was designed, why some things were done they way they were, and quite a bit of history leading up to the Holocaust. He was fantastic and great to listen to! It’s amazing how much of the architecture was influence by the death camps, and concentration camps. Each of the archways is meant to look like the entrances to the death camps. There is exposed steel which was put in the camps to support the furnaces. Lots of brickwork. I’ve put some pictures in below, but they don’t do it as much justice as being there in person. One of the things we learned is that it is the role of the museum to tell the whole story, of all the people groups who were so poorly treated by the world, and the really poor response from the rest of the world to the Holocaust at the time.
Before we went into the permanent exhibit, we got to go through an exhibit called Daniel’s Story. It’s a walk-through explanation of life as a young boy just as the Nazi’s came to power. It shows how his life changed from when his parents owned a shop, to life in the ghetto, to a concentration camp, and how he is separated from his mom and sister, and never sees them again. It was very powerful, and extremely well done. Very kid friendly, and you see short and quick diary entries from Daniel throughout.
Once you get into the main permanent exhibit, it probably takes a good 3-4 hours to work through it. Before you enter in the elevator to go up to the fourth floor, where it starts, you randomly choose an ID card, which has a bit of a story of a person that you are following through. When the elevator doors open, it’s a very dark place, and the Holocaust is on a black wall. The exhibit is powerful, and extraordinary, sad, dark, and honest. We learned how Hitler came to power, how he legally overpowered the opposition and his terrifying methods to get people to see his way.
We are led through corridors of exhibits, displays, and we are brought through time as things gradually changed and got worse for the Jews and those opposed to Hitler. There is a time when you walk through a box car that would have held many people on their way to concentration camps or death camps. (We were told that many people cannot bring themselves to go through it, and therefore there is a path around. We see the continued indoctrination of the German people, the propaganda machine in full swing. We see the world’s response to the attempted emmigration of the Jewish people and others, and their unwillingness to open their borders. In truth, it appeared that they did not know the full extent of the genocide that was happening to them.
As you move through time, and through floors you see newspaper articles, pictures, videos, signs, and video booths, and walls. It is an unbelievably moving exhibit. You see a model of what the death camps looked like, how they were setup, how efficient the Nazi’s were at killing people. You learn of the death marches that prisoners made through towns and villages and no one helped. You read the stories of boats full of Jews trying to enter new countries, only to be turned away.
It is riveting. It is shocking. It is sad.
And the world did nothing.
It was not until the Allies encountered the camps, recently abandoned by the Germans, but still with the prisoners that the truth of Nazi Germany became clear. Armies from around the world were shocked and could not believe how horrible it was.
There are items in the exhibits, videos and pictures that are placed behind a four foot tall concrete barrier, so that you don’t have to look at them if you are unable. And they are nothing short of horrible.
When you leave the exhibit you have a much better understanding of the genocide that took place, of the 6 million Jews who lost their lives and countless others who were on Hitler’s bad side. And we are reminded that it is up to all of us to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.\
This is just a quick picture of the outside of the Holocaust Museum:
This is inside the main hall, where you get tickets and some of the entrances to the exhibits. Notice the brickwork, how all the doorways have arches, all the exposed steel girders, all things that symbolize some parts of the death camps. The black wall and the arch at the top of the stairs is the exit to the main exhibit. When you come out you see the other end of the room, which is a white wall.
This is the first thing you see when you enter the main exhibit on the fourth floor:
These are samples of some of the write-ups that we saw:
This last one is near the very end, and it one of my favourite quotes from the day:
It was a very powerful part of the day. And I am bothered by the fact that the average citizen did nothing. Governments and citizens from around the world, did nothing. There were a couple of stories that demonstrated that when an average citizen got involved, in helping the Jews in some way, hundreds of lives were saved. What could have been done if everyone didn’t turn a blind eye? It is a reminder to me that we need to pay attention to the world around us, and not just live in our own little comfortable place.
Sorry for the rather gloomy start to today’s entry. It was a great exhibit, and certainly a MUST Visit if you ever go to Washington, DC.
By now it was after 2:00 PM, so we headed down the street to a row of food trucks, and filled up our stomachs for lunch. Just outside the Museum of American History there must have been 12-15 food trucks, so we all got to pick what we wanted.
Next up, the White House Visitor Centre. It’s just about impossible to get a tour of the White House these days. I know I tried, and finally after bouncing around to a number of departments, I got the “We’re not doing that kind of thing right now” response. But the Visitor Centre is excellent! They have all kinds of displays and information about the history, the contents, the Presidents, and all kinds of things about the White House. It’s fantastic. They even have a theatre with a video, and the Obama’s and some recent Presidents and families narrating.
Here is one quick picture of the great hall that this exhibit is in. (I know, I’ve promised lots of pictures over the next few weeks, wait until I get home!)
We’re getting late in the afternoon, and many of the museums and tourist places close up between 4 and 5 PM. So we headed back to our place, making a couple of quick stops to get ice cream and cold drinks, and a couple of souvenir places. Got back, sat down for an hour or so, and then out again.
This time we walked down to China town area and the Verizon Centre. We wanted something different to eat, so we found a Crepe place – we didn’t have anything healthy here at all, but it was good.
Found a crazy candy store and bought some horrible dreadful Jelly Belly’s. You can’t tell what the flavour is until you bite into them, but some of them included skunk smell, dog food, booger, etc. Oh it was horrible!
Here are a couple of pictures from our walk. I can’t name any of the buildings, but we were struck by the contrast between modern, and the traditional granite / marble. Just incredible. You walk around a corner and see something amazing. And the row-houses are really neat looking. Many three and four storey walk-ups everywhere.
This one is totally not related, but we found a Tesla dealership. Not huge, but what do you expect when you are buying a $100,000 car. You don’t have a lot of them on the lot! It was closed, not that they’d likely talk to us anyway, but we took a picture.
After another good evening of walking, and over 17,000 steps, back to have a jelly bean eating contest, some snacks, and lights out on our last full day in DC. Tomorrow we’ll be heading on the train to New York City! More later!