Holocaust Museum, Meeting a Survivor, and MSF Exhibit

On October 1st, a few of my classmates and I took a trip to Washington, DC. Our first stop was the Holocaust Museum. This was not my first time visiting the museum however it was definitely much different than my previous visit. The first time I had gone was my sophomore year in high school for a project I was doing in my world history class. I walked all around the museum casually skimming the pictures and blurbs on the walls without really taking the time to analyze and understand the depth of the events. Now having background information and while currently reading a 524 page book on the Holocaust it was much different. I noticed myself examining every picture I saw and reading the captions and stories. Having more knowledge on the events, I almost felt more emotionally attached to the little things that I had seen. It was like walking through the Holocaust step by step. img_7469“A Shtetl- The Ejszyszki Shtetl Collection” These photographs were taken between the years of 1890 and 1941 in a small town in what is now Lithuania. All of the photos were taken to portray the life of the small town by taking pictures of 100+ families and different events.
img_7478“Prisoners of the Camps” These portraits are all of common Nazi targets during the war. They’re Soviet prisoners of war, roma (gypsies), homosexuals, and political prisoners/ jehovah’s witnesses. Seeing all of the faces of the people that were victims of the war really stood out to me and caught my attention. Most gypsies were sent to different concentration camps or ghettos where they were forced to work till death or gassed. Roughly 10,000 homosexuals were sent to camps where they commonly also were worked to death. img_7482

“We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses. We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers from Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam, and because we are only made of fabric and leather and not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the hellfire” -Yiddish Poet Moses Schulstein (1911-1981). The shoes exhibit was really hard to walk through for me. Realizing that these were the actual shoes worn by victims that died at the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland was indescribable. The shoes were all different sizes and styles; heels, sandals, flats. Some belonging to children others to women and men, it was horrible and heartbreaking. However the shoes weren’t the only artifact in the museum. There was also a Nazi uniform worn by an officer, a concentration camp uniform, and a bunk from Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Along with the visit of the museum, we had the opportunity to meet a Holocaust survivor. Her name was Jaqueline Mendels Birn. It was amazing and difficult to hear the story of how her and her family crossed the demarcation line to escape the war and reach safety. She spoke about how they managed to leave, how they were helped along the way, near death experiences, and personal short stories of things she specifically remembered. Following that, we proceeded to the MSF exhibit which was very interesting and educational. MSF “Doctors Without Borders” is an organization that helps people in different countries around the world that have been effected by natural disasters, war, disease, etc. I really enjoyed going through the exhibit due to how involved it was for participants. Entering, we were given an ID card saying what country we were fleeing and what we are. I was an asylum seeker escaping the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Going along the exhibit you were guided by a leader that talked about what refugees go through in the process of seeking safety. You were literally put in the shoes of a refugee yourself.

MSF Timeline:

2007- Conflict Grips Somalia: MSF came to aid in Somalia after thousands of civilians fled the capital.

2010- Earthquake in Haiti: MSF treated more than 173,757 patients and conducted more than 11,748 surgeries.

2012- Civil War in Syria: MSF provided medical care by setting up hospitals for victims.

2013- Chaos in Central African Republic: Aided to the victims of violence.

2013- Civil War in South Sudan: Aided to the victims of the war.

2014- Ebola Outbreak: MSF helped Guinea in the Ebola epidemic.

2015- Kunduz Attack: MSF emergency trauma hospital was bombed.

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