By Charles Summers

For Mitzpeh


In the museum, a casting of a memorial wall was constructed from the fragments of tombstones from the Remah Cemetery in Krakow. The original wall is located in the cemetery. (Charles Summers/Mitzpeh)

On Sunday, January 30th, this university’s Hillel took students on a trip to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Seeing International Holocaust Remembrance day being the first weekend of school, I figured our proximity to D.C. would be a great opportunity to actually go and visit the museum,” Olivia Hazlett, the social justice fellow at Maryland Hillel and one of the trip’s co-organizers, said.

Mal Goldenberg, this university’s Hillel IACT coordinator, also helped organize the trip. She noted that she and Hazlett had partly planned it in the hopes that students who weren’t in the rush process for sororities and fraternities would have a community event to partake in.

“It was three days after Holocaust Remembrance Day, it was also during recruitment, so a lot of people were going through rush but a lot of people maybe weren’t and didn’t have other plans if their friends were going through it,” she explained.

A bit after 1 p.m., Hazlett and Goldenberg gathered the group outside L’Enfant Plaza Station to walk to the museum.

On the guided tour, the first and last room the visitor will enter is the Hall of Witness, a sky-lit area that the exhibits revolve around. On the southern wall of the room are the words of Isaiah inscribed on black granite: “You are my witnesses.”

Kira Hoffman, a freshman mathematics major, had been wanting to visit the Holocaust museum in D.C. for a while, so she was quick to sign up after learning about the trip.

“I wanted to go because especially having grown up in a family and community full of survivors, I have always found individual stories, especially those similar to the ones of my grandfather, aunts and uncles, very interesting,” Hoffman said.

Three floors comprise the main exhibit of the museum, each one focusing on a certain period of time. The visitor begins the exhibit on the highest floor and ends it on the lowest.

“The cool thing about museums is how you can send a message with how the museum is structured,” Hazlett said. “As you go through multiple times, you’re picking up on things you didn’t necessarily see your first time around, and you get a chance to look at elements that you maybe didn’t catch your first time through.”

Many of the museum’s exhibits don’t just convey the utter destruction that the Nazis wrought, but document the life that they destroyed. On the fourth floor, one will find Torah scrolls that were desecrated during Kristallnacht displayed between two images of the same synagogue, one before and one after the pogrom.

“The exhibit of the shoes is always really powerful,” Hazlett said when discussing the parts of the museum that stood out to her. “The message that it sends, that the shoes are made out of leather and those are the only remnants of so many victims of the Holocaust, to see them piled up, such a mundane and ordinary item, has a real power to it.”

Goldenberg touched on her experience of going from one floor to another, where the glass walls of the walkway display the names of cities where there used to be Jewish populations.

“Seeing how extensive that list was, it’s a common thing to say, ‘There’s Jews all over the world,’ but there really were, and now it’s not anywhere near in abundance,” she said.

“I’m happy to put on events like this,” said Hazlett. “Especially right now, with stuff going on with Whoopi Goldberg and antisemitic comments in the media, I think it’s important to make that accessible for our students, even if it’s only eight miles away.”

Hazlett also emphasized the importance of trips like these to Holocaust education. “It makes it more inviting for people to come and learn about something they may have misinformation about,” she said.


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