Stand up for good is the motto printed on the Visitor Guide to the Holocaust Museum Houston. It also says, From darkness, light. If we don’t stand up for good, there will be darkness, that is for sure. But God can bring light out of darkness.
The boys and I took a field trip to the museum last week. I have had trouble writing about it because even though I knew some things about the Holocaust, I learned much more and it was very sobering. Watching the videos of emotional interviews of survivors, looking at the terrible photographs, reading the systematically planned timeline of events made this historical event seem like it has not been that long ago, and even worse, that it could happen again.
When you first enter the main doors, you are screened for weapons and go through a metal detector. That was the first clue that this was not your typical museum. After paying admission, you are greeted and given short instructions by a museum worker. The mood here feels quiet and respectful, like a funeral home. The colors are gray, floor cement, bare structure very bleak in most rooms.
The first room you enter is the Morgan Family Welcome Center which has benches where you can sit and watch an informative movie about the holocaust. There are photos and stories on the walls. We arrived a few minutes before the next showing so we walked around and looked at the photos. The movie was sad, but very well done and I would recommend everyone to take the time to watch it.
After the movie, you walk through a room with a series of wall displays that explain the details of the methods that Hitler and the Nazis used to try to destroy and eliminate the Jews. It takes a bit of time to read all the information so anyone who does not read well may get overwhelmed. Here you read about how the non-Jews were told that Jews were evil and had caused the economic and social problems of that time and even school children were given reading books with Nazi propaganda stories. Then Hitler began to implement his plan to create a ‘master race’ which he based on the phony scientific theories of the day that some claimed that some people were more evolved than others. People began to be classified by facial features and other physical characteristics. The Jews were forced to wear an arm band showing that they were Jewish during this early period. Here is a timeline from a different museum’s website. https://www.ushmm.org/learn/timeline-of-events/1939-1941
There is a large map on one wall of the locations of the ghettos that the Jews were forced to live in until they were taken to the camps. I did not realize that all of the ghettos were in Poland, not Germany. The Jews were pushed out of Germany and many escaped to other countries, but those who couldn’t leave were put into neighborhoods with no resources and had barbed wire fences built around the to keep them in. Many people died from lack of food in the ghettos. There were photos and videos of the dead lying on sidewalks.
In another section you see a railroad car like the ones used to transport the people to the gas chambers and camps. Next to that is a Danish Rescue boat in which people were hidden and taken to safe places. One of the more uplifting displays highlights the heroes of the holocaust whose bravery and courage saved thousands of lives. Two of the heroes were men who worked in government offices that wrote thousands of visas, even though there were not supposed to, so that people could escape the country with papers. Others were kind people who helped hide and take care of children.
In another room you learn about the triumphant end of the war and the liberation of the camps, but that many people were so sick and starved when they found them that they died before they could be given medical care. There are disturbing newsreels of the starved and naked victims that you can watch, but they are down inside boxes , I suppose to keep small children from being upset by them.
After leaving this area of the museum and going back into the lobby, you can enter into another gallery where you learn all about the search and capture of Adolf Eichmann a notorious Nazi who helped organize the camps and extermination plans for the Jews. He escaped after the end of the war but was found and eventually executed even though he claimed he was not guilty because he was only following orders.
I came away from this experience with two things, a greater compassion for the Jewish people, and a greater fear of the evil that a charismatic man can do when the economy is shaky and people are ready and willing to blame someone for their problems. It was very disturbing to see how the Jews had their rights taken away, one by one, until they were literally treated worse than animals,as less than trash to be burned up. This was done in such a way that they did not realize what was happening until it was too late and there was no way to fight back. Some of them thought that it could not happen to them because of their social status and wealth, but Hitler took that, too. They lost all their rights first, then their livelihoods, their self-respect was taken away by public humiliation, they were removed from their homes, and eventually put into camps where they were worked to death or burned in ovens. Some were also used in medical experiments like you would use a rat or monkey.
What can we do to prevent this type of evil from ever happening again? We must be aware that it can happen. Middle and high school students must be taught specifically about the attempt to eliminate the Jewish race through genocide, about the evils of too much power, the dangers of charismatic leaders promising things based on demonizing one or more groups, how the economy works and why it has ups and downs, the reasons the founders of America wanted checks and balances in our government, the dangers of being dependent on other countries for basic needs, like food imports and energy and being in debt. Everyone must learn that the human heart is capable of great good AND great evil. To teach only the positive side of life is to put children in danger. We must teach them to think logically and to recognize propaganda and lies. And we must teach them to be brave and do the right thing in the face of persecution and evil against others.
From a Christian point of view, what the Bible teaches is that Satan has been trying to eliminate the Jewish people ever since God said that a savior would come from the line of David to put things right between God and man. I don’t know if Hitler knew this or if he was just a tool of Satan. God will not let all of the Jews be wiped out. He says he has reserved for himself a remnant, even though the others were in disobedience and rejected the Messiah, Jesus. Not everyone agrees on the details, but in one way or another God will restore the Jews. Will all Israel be saved?
Even though this may be a disturbing and emotional visit, I highly recommend going to the Houston Holocaust Museum, and taking your older children. We must never forget these atrocities and must keep working to educate and inform the next generation. I would suggest doing a little research and talking to the kids before and after the visit about what happened, their thoughts and reactions, and how they can help stand up for good.
What do you think? Have you visited any of the Holocaust museums around the world? What do you think we can do to prevent tyrants from getting into power?