So this quarter in ELA, we’ve begun learning about the Holocaust. Or really, we’re learning more about the Holocaust. It’s been more than halfway through, and we’ve talked about many different themes and factors that contributed and could be seen in the Holocaust, as well as the novel we’re focusing on, Night. We’ve talked about genocide, propaganda, cruelty and inhumanity, and even silence. To get more involved regarding this unit, we’ve had a major summarize project to do on the book Night, and just this Wednesday, we- my entire grade level- went on a field trip to the Dallas Holocaust & Human Rights Museum. 

I’m not going to give a step by step explanation of my trip, as that would be boring. However, I wanted to share some of the things that caught my eye and really interested me. For example, how the museum is split into three wings.

The Holocaust/Shoah Wing, Human Rights Wing, and a Pivot to America Wing. Although the main focus of this museum is about the Holocaust, it also incorporates a section about human rights, something which the Jews had taken from by the Nazis, and how the rights of people are restored in America over the course of history.

First, the Holocaust Wing. I would say one of the most interesting things to see was a map of all the concentration camps. When we think of the Holocaust, the most common names such as Auschwitz, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Buna, and many others come to mind. But we don’t really comprehend that there were more than 1,200 until we get a visual. Seeing all the concentration camps put onto one big picture was really eye-opening. It was put into context and I was pretty much just shocked at how many there were. Another thing was the propaganda. 

Obviously this isn’t an immediate effect, but rather something continuous over some time in order to really sway the opinion. But seeing the posters and commercials of the propaganda at that time really is interesting to look at. It was fascinating to watch and read about the views and ideals that the party and Hitler were trying to enforce, and seeing how that slowly changed the public’s opinion and led to the crimes made against the Jews. Hearing about the Holocaust makes us think about the cruelty of teh Nazis and Germans against teh Jews. We have this sense of, not necessarily disgust, but resentment towards them for their actions. We don’t realize that some of these people were swayed and “manipulated” to do so. Although they were the ones who ended up being swayed and carried out Hitler’s orders, they were merely influenced by someone who took advantage of power. Some people, though, didn’t need swaying and did so almost proudly. 

I also liked the small details in between the sections. For example, displays of the clothing worn- The Boy in Striped Pajamas reference- and the different versions of the yellow star the Jews were forced to wear. There were also artifacts of stamps, shoes, and even silverware that was made or used. There was even a ‘shower head’ from the gas chambers, as well as a solid form of Zyklon B. ( Displayed and secured of course) There was also a part about religion, and how leaders of different religions- like the Pope- responded to this situation.

My other favorite part of this wing was the box car they had. You were able to sit inside and watch a video on the deportation of Jews. Reading books and listening to testimonies of survivors about deportation and the journey isn’t broad enough to understand how poorly they were treated. There were very few, if not no windows, and no room at all as at a time hundreds of people were shoved into one car at once. Being able to sit in one and actually picture and see how many people would have fit in it is really something. Watching the video and imagining the situation while sitting inside is a new level of understanding, for me at least. I was able to picture the conditions they had and try to visualize how it must have looked like when they got in the cars. The Germans carelessly shoved them in, and promised them it would be a few hours, when it was really days. ( In some cases, 5 or more) Another thing is the sound. I never thought about how it must sound inside. I’ve read about the space and conditions, but never about how LOUD it was. In the video, a survivor talks about how loud it is inside the boxcar. Some people were praying, some were singing, some were crying, and some had gone mad. And one by one, people would be dropping like flies. The only times the doors opened would be to take out the dead. Otherwise, they were inside. 

The Human Rights Wing was, I think, the smallest. This mainly was about what happened after the Holocaust, like the formation of the UN, and some of the activists such as Eleanor Roosevelt. The thing that stood out to me was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There was a 3D visual of the rights people from different countries put in. There were many similar to the first 10 amendments in the Constitution. However, what really intrigued me was that the United States did not sign the UDHR until 1992. Why? Because one of the rights was that everyone was equal. At that time, however, a big issue was slavery. I’ll get back to this part later when we move to the Pivot on America Wing.

The other part of the Human Rights Wing was the 10 stages of genocide. I absolutely loved how it was made. ( The exhibit to be clear.) It highlights the 10 main signs of genocide and how they can be seen throughout history all over the world. The ten stages are:
  • Polarization
  • Dehumanization
  • Organization
  • Preparation 
  • Extermination 
  • Denial
  • Persecution 
  • Classification 
  • Symbolization
  • Discrimination 

I think what really amazed me by this exhibit was how you could define something so…brutal into these 10 stages. How do you even classify that? That’s what really amazes me. How people are changing, or trying to change. Genocide has been- not exactly common- but present throughout history, and even today with the Uyghur Muslims in China.

However, it’s never been seen as a problem. It’s never been addressed or seen as a problem we need to fix, until the Holocaust happened. I think that was a major turning point in history that really made people stop and think. Although our world is not perfect, and there are still many injustices being faced by people today, we’re working towards solving this to not repeat the past.

The final wing: Pivot to America Wing. This wing was made to show how hindu rights are changing in America. Similar to the other wings, it included testimonies and interactive displays and kiosks that talk about making a difference. Most of the displays were about slavery, as that is a big part in American history. There were some activists who were working or worked on creating foundations and improving the lives of many others who faced injustice. I think there was one on Native Americans, but I unfortunately did not get much time to see the entire wing. During our field trip we were given a packet to fill out as a grade. However, under the worry that it’ll be graded, I ended up spending my time trying to get everything filled out. Because of this, I ended up not being able to actually read and learn more about the wings. I was - and still am- upset and disappointed it turned out this way, but I am hoping to go again and be able to actually learn this time. It really was an excellent experience and I really enjoyed the trip. I really just wished we didn’t have an assignment, as that prevented a lot of students, including myself, from learning properly.

The final part of our visit was a film called Voices of Courage. This was a “documentary” or a collection of interviews put together of Holocaust survivors that live in Dallas today. The one thing that stood out to me was the interview with a man from the military who liberated those in the camps. You always hear about the survivors’ experience, but never about the liberators. That was a new perspective. He explained that when they had entered the concentration camp, they were cautious. They had no idea what was happening. They were expecting Nazis seeing the barracks, but instead they were shocked to see Jews, malnourished and abnormally thin and sick. They had no idea what was happening, and seeing all these Jews completely surprised them. Listening to how the Jews were overjoyed and crying seeing their liberators was just devastating. They had been taken from their homes, dehumanized, starved, and lived under the fear of being sent to the crematoria everyday. They became malnourished and frail, most of them becoming living corpses with decaying skin and frail limbs, and hoped everyday to be saved. Most of them lost hope, and now they were finally saved. After going through all that, it must be overwhelming. They’ve lost almost everything, including their own identities.

Something I want to add is that the world is changing. I mentioned before that we’re working to stop genocide and injustices in human rights, but never exactly how. We’re doing so by speaking up. Let me backtrack to the very beginning. Remember when I mentioned a summative project we had to do over Night? Well, our main idea in this entire book is about silence. “…to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all…” . This is our main quote. The Holocaust could have been stopped before if people had not remained silent or indifferent to wards the crime. By remaining silent, the crime is only being increased and fueled to continue. The Jews didn’t know what was happening, and that made their death even more painful. Yes, they had warnings, but those were unclear as no one could confirm what was really happening. The world was too preoccupied by the war, and didn’t notice them. And those who did notice, chose not to say anything. This is what helped the Holocaust continue.

However, after the Holocaust, people began to deny it ever happening, and that it was a myth. In response, Holocaust survivors decided to speak up. If people forgot about the Holocaust, it would be bound to happen again. In Night, Elie Wiesel- a Holocaust survivor- himself writes that it is their responsibility to speak out about this so that the future generation don’t have to go through another Holocaust again. Similar to the UN. The United Nations is dedicated to protecting human rights after witnessing what happened with the Holocaust. That’s why the Uyghur Muslim genocide is a problem that the countries are trying to stop. To prevent another Holocaust from happening, and because the Uyghur Muslims are facing injustices against their human rights.

I really enjoyed this field trip. I haven’t been on a. Field trip in like 3 years so it was really fun to go on one again. I also definitely enjoy the museum. I really liked the experience. I haven’t been to a history museum in a one time, and I think that I was able to learn a lot about how the Holocaust has influenced and changed our modern society today. I really really hope I can go again though in order to go through EVERY exhibit and read through everything again so I can actually have a good experience, but other than that I really liked it. I was able to see so many new perspectives in the Holocaust, be Abel to listen and hear about teh small details and events that went on between the event, how the UN was formed and why it’s important, 10 stages of genocide which I didn’t even know existed, and got to get a brief introduction on how this has helped shape our society today, So, I hope you all have an excellent weekend, and also got to learn something new through this post. Bye! - Museum link for more information and picture of the wings