I know this blog is supposed to be about WW1 and the heroes that fought in it, but last Sunday I visited the Illinois Holocaust Museum just north of Chicago, and as my passion for military history spans both world wars and beyond I thought it would be reticent of me if i didn’t comment on my trip.
The museum is just north of Chicago in a town called Skokie, luckily for me I had borrowed Bill’s Garmin the previous night as we departed a bar after watching the boxing (Still can’t believe my man Ricky got taken apart – but that’s another story!).
Although it is called a museum it is not one in it’s traditional sense, it is more like an educational centre. There are not many museum-like ‘artifacts’ to look at, instead there are a number of plasma screen that tell the story of the Holocaust, from the rise of the Nazi party from the embers of the Great Depression, to the ‘Final Solution’ and liberation of the concentration camps by the Allies.
The main Exhibition tells the story of the Holocaust, from pre-war German life through ghetto life and concentration camps to eventual liberation and resettlement throughout the world, with a special focus on post-war life in Israel and Skokie. Artifacts, documents and photographs help illustrate the narrative of the Holocaust while testimonies from local survivors add personal detail. A rail car of the type used in Nazi deportation programs sits within the building. The exhibition concludes with a summary film in the Pritzker Theater that connects the lessons of the Holocaust with other Genocides.
The spirit and soul of the center of course honours the millions of people that were murdered during the Holocaust, but it also salutes the courage and resiliance of the survivors. Those people that rebuilt their lives, many of them in the locality of the museum, . There is a strong message of ‘Never Again’ that runs throughout the museum.
While I was there the museum was interviewing an old lady – perhaps in her 80’s – about her experiences. She was softly spoken and I was looking on from a distance so as not to distract her, but i heard her describe the moment she was seperated from her parents after disembarking at a concentration camp (I dont know which one). That was the last time she saw any of her family.
Next time you have a bad day because your boss shouts at you, or you spill your starbucks down your shirt, or you have lost your favourite shoes, just take a second to think about the 6 million people who died in concentration camps, the ghettos, death marches, forced labour, public executions and beatings. Think about the suffering, the torture, the starvation, the loss of dignity, the constant fear of death… Think about the survivors – physically and mentally scarred for the rest of their lives.
Then, perhaps, your day won’t seem so bad after all.