Today, on May 18, we went to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Our group, Charlie, was the last group to see this memorial, but I had already heard many things from other groups and prepared my heart for a heavy morning.
We have read this number of 5.4 to 6 million murdered. But this memorial does exactly what it needs to do to combat our innate response to hearing and learning about the Holocaust. It refrains from focusing on statistics and making these individuals to be numerical values, but rather personalizes these deaths. Even the name, rather than the Memorial to the Jewish Genocide, it’s the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The use of the word murder rather than genocide is an intentional, personalizing use of words. The memorial shares life stories, families, names, hopes, emotions and ways of death of those murdered. These were real people, like you and me. We can’t forget their faces, their names, their stories, or their impacts. We can’t allow for the repression to a state that would allow for something of the like to occur.
Tonight we revisited the memorial as a group, all 18 of us. We split into separate groups of three and walked down the exterior of the memorial, where blocks of cement extend from the ground from knee-level to over 15 feet tall. Revisiting this sight, walking down the rows and columns of cement blocks, able to see glimpses of light and normal life over the tops of this cement was truly isolating. It was a loss of sight, security, comfort, and control. But it was more encapsulating than prior. I felt out of my comfort zone but I understood the purpose of the memorial and felt the emotions it was meant to convey is reference to those felt in the concentration camps and in hiding.
Below are a few clips from the memorial. They mean no disrespect and I am in no way glorifying the horrific history behind this memorial or disregarding the purpose of remembering those lost. I do believe having a visual element can help to convey some of the emotions felt.