By Jillian Seliger-Braun (‘19)
On November 27, two Holocaust and Genocide classes toured the National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Located on a 1.9 acre lot across from the National Mall, the museum was established in 1993.
The cost of construction totaled a whopping $200 million, covered entirely through private donations. The building was designed by renowned architect James Ingo Freed, who created a triple level floor plan pieced together with stunning glass ceilings and bridges engraved with the names of countless victims. According to the museum’s website, it has seen over forty million visitors since its founding.
Every year, social studies teacher, Mr. Scott Wissocki, plans and organizes a trip to the National Holocaust Memorial Museum, to be attended by all Genocide classes. Students are given the opportunity to see the nation’s memorial to the six million Jews, ten million Soviets, almost two million Polish, and millions more murdered in the Holocaust.
Mr. Wissocki said, “We set it up because it’s a really great experience for the kids to be able to see all the stuff that they have at the Holocaust museum. It’s a much different experience being able to be there and see all that and be able to talk to survivors than to just learn about it in class. So, I think it’s a really important museum and a really important thing that we do.”
Although he has toured the museum many times before, Mr. Wissocki describes it as an emotional and intense experience every time he goes.
Over fourty students attended the trip to the museum.
Among them was senior Carly Blankstein.
She described her experience saying, “It was very emotional. Seeing all the shoes [taken by Nazis from victims of various concentration camps] shocked me.”
She explained how the museum helped her better understand the plight of her Jewish family during Hitler’s rise to power.
Another attending student, senior Isabella Sitoy, felt deeply impacted by what she witnessed in the exhibits as well.
Sitoy described her feelings, saying, “I felt it was very saddening because there were actual artifacts and many videos that were very saddening to see. There were also a lot of diary entries and letters and when you are reading them, you can feel how devastated the Jewish [people] were to know [the result of practicing] their faith could have been death.”
She learned about the deep human cost Hitler’s policies had on private citizens around Europe beyond that expressed in history textbooks.
The staff of the National Holocaust Memorial Museum strive to educate the public and honor the victims murdered by the Nazi regime during World War II.
Its website states, “The Museum’s primary mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about this unprecedented tragedy; to preserve the memory of those who suffered; and to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral and spiritual questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy.”
With enough awareness surrounding the issue, they hope similar events can be prevented before ever materializing to create yet another tragic loss of human life.