Holocaust Museum: A House of Learning
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 16, 2001 More than 15 million people from around the world have visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum since it opened in April 1993, making it one of the most visited museums in the nation's capital.
Four-and-a-half-million children have visited the Holocaust museum, said officials. Nearly half had viewed exhibits with their parents or teachers, including student groups from the 50 states and from around the world.
Museum visitors have also included hundreds of cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. Touring the museum is part of the academy students' training to learn about the role of the military in protecting a democratic society.
The museum also provides programs for the National Defense University, at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. It has also become a part of the training program for new and current U.S. Foreign Service officers and military attaches. Since it opened the museum has held more than 100 classes for some 2,500 U.S. diplomats.
The three floors of exhibits presents a comprehensive history of the Holocaust period through artifacts, photographs, films and eyewitness testimonies. The exhibit begins with life in Europe before the Holocaust in the early 1930s and continues through the Nazi rise to power and subsequent tyranny and genocide. It concludes with the post-World War II aftermath of the Holocaust.
Jews were the primary victims of the Holocaust -- six million were killed. Gypsies, Poles, and the mentally and physically handicapped were also targeted for destruction or decimation by the Nazis for racial, ethnic or nationalistic reasons. Millions more, including homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war and political dissidents, were also targeted by the Nazis.
Officials note that the museum's primary mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about the Holocaust. It also serves to preserve the memory of those who suffered. The museum encourages visitors to reflect upon the moral and spiritual questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as citizens' responsibilities within a democracy.
One of the displays features flags of 20 of the 34 U.S. military divisions that participated in the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. The flags are rotated to ensure all the divisions are displayed periodically.
More information about the Holocaust Museum can be obtained on the Internet at: www.ushmm.org