What happens when the last first-hand witness of the Holocaust passes away, and all we're left with to remember it by are stories and memorabilia? Well, some will deny its existence, although that is already happening today, right now, and in fact has been happening for years. Others will read books, memoirs, diaries – they will watch films and adaptations - all powerful ways of educating ourselves, indeed. But it is memorial sites like Yad Vashem in the heart of Jerusalem, or museums designed to examine racism and prejudice around the world like the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, that I believe will have the greatest impact on generations to come. .
I have seen virtually every Holocaust themed movie, from Steven Spielberg's hauntingly real Schindler's List to Mark Herman's heart-wrenching The Boy with the Striped Pajamas. I have read Night, Elie Wiesel's harrowing memoir of his experience as a prisoner of Auschwitz, and Anne Frank's diary chronicling her fears and her dreams while praying to escape the wrath of Nazism. All these accounts of the Holocaust brought me one step closer to understanding the events that lead up to and populated this tragedy, however it wasn't until I visited Yad Vashem that I first realized that truly understanding the Holocaust is more than learning events and dates, it is about viscerally seeing, hearing, feeling and touching the Holocaust, which is the only way to begin to fully comprehend one of the darkest periods in human history. We are compelled and obligated to remember the Holocaust for so many reasons, foremost among them being to ensure that it never happens again, the most profound justification of all.1 .
In this paper, I will explore the reasons that museums and memorial sites like Yad Vashem and the Museum of Tolerance are of paramount importance to Holocaust education.