Visiting The Holocaust Museum

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Visiting this museum is an emotional experience so be sure that you have enough time and stamina. The permanent exhibits are not recommended for children under 11 years old.

There is a separate exhibit for ages 8 and up that tells the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of a young boy. In the 1930s, the American filmmaker Julien Bryan chronicled life in Poland and Nazi Germany.

When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Bryan risked his life to record the ferocious siege of Warsaw. Bryan embraced this philosophy throughout his career by aiming to further world understanding through documentary films.

Bryan’s collection includes still photographs and a film gallery. Curators’ Corner is a behind-the-scenes look at the Museum’s collections and the stories they bring to life.

In this monthly series, the museum staff narrates the stories behind artifacts, photographs, and documents in our collections. “Auschwitz: Through the Lens of the SS: Photos of Nazi Leadership at the Camp” is a photo album depicting exactly what happened in the Nazi leadership camps.

The inscription “Auschwitz 21.6.1944” on its first page signals the uniqueness of the album. There are very few wartime photographs of the Auschwitz concentration camp complex, which included Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi killing center.

Though his name does not appear anywhere in the album, the dates of the photographs and various decorations including adjutant cords on the uniform of the album’s owner, indicate that the album almost certainly belonged to and was created by SS-Obersturmfuhrer Karl Hocker. Hocker was the adjutant to the commandant of Auschwitz, SS-Sturmbannfuhrer Richard Baer.

Hocker was stationed at Auschwitz from May 1944 until the evacuation of the camp in January 1945. The photographs depict Hocker with other SS officers in Auschwitz in the summer and fall of 1944 and provide us with a new understanding of their lives and activities in the camp.

Even in the final months of the war, after Soviet troops had liberated concentration camps and labor camps to the east, SS officers stationed at Auschwitz enjoyed social functions and formal ceremonies. The album shows Auschwitz at a pivotal time-the period during which the gas chambers were operating at maximum efficiency-as the Hungarian Jews arrived and during the last months before the evacuation of the camp.

The only other known album of photographs taken at Auschwitz, published as the “Auschwitz Album,” specifically depicts the arrival of the Hungarian Jews and the selection process that the SS imposed upon them. American Friends Service Committee Collection: Guide to Names Mentioned and Name Lists Found in the AFSC Records Relating to Humanitarian Work in France and North Africa

The records documenting the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) work in France in the 1940’s contain numerous lists of names of Quaker workers and the people they tried to help. These records can be found in both “American Friends Service Committee Records Relating to Humanitarian Work in France 1933-1950” as well as “American Friends Service Committee Records Relating to Humanitarian Work in North Africa, 1942-1945.”

An index of over 3,000 names appears in these collections. It was created by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives and includes the Names of Children Considered for Emigration to the United States and the Names of Refugees Appearing on Lists of Convoys.

The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews and millions of others by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. The personal effects of some of the victims – photos, clothing, letters – have become historical artifacts, speaking to lives that might otherwise be gone forever.

The USHMM’s 2007 Membership Calendar highlights artifacts and documents from the Museum’s collections. The millions of artifacts, documents, photographs, films, and testimonies help us gain a deeper understanding of the lessons of the Holocaust for today’s world and will stand as evidence of humanity’s greatest crimes for ages to come.

The website Life After the Holocaust documents the experience of six Holocaust survivors whose journey brought them to the United States, and reveals the complexity of starting over. Through each of the six themes as well as individual interviews with the survivors, visitors of the site can explore their stories and get a glimpse into their lives.

Terry Daniels has worked in the travel business for 10 years. He has many recommendations of things to do in Washington DC.

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Terry Daniels

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