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  • Saturday, 01 April 2023
Yad Vashem Museum: Journey back to vanished world.

Yad Vashem Museum: Journey back to vanished world.

When I took the 20-minute tram ride from my hotel to Yad Vashem Museum in Israel, I was most concerned about my soul. What effect would this visit have on my soul? The question loomed largely over me because a visit to this museum is not one of bliss.

Opened in 2005 the Yad Vashem Museum is the country’s largest Holocaust memorial. Sitting on more than 4,200 square metres, on the slopes of Mount Remembrance, it documents the lives of the Jewish people, before and during the Holocaust.

The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its allies and collaborators during World War II, between 1941 and 1945.

I began feeling the weight of the visit as soon as I arrived. Between the reception and the museum is a bridge. And what do bridges do? They connect places. This was indeed a bridge to a vanished world.

Nine galleries carry the world that once was. Upon entering, the first section contained a film showing life before the holocaust. I watched clips of people laughing, children walking on the streets, women carrying baskets and land being ploughed. What a setup!

Beginning with a portrait of the mastermind behind the Nazi ideology, the rest of the space is an emotional journey, chronologically, and in great detail, showing how that life was cut off. The environment was ice-cold with a cloud of despair and death hanging about us. I could hardly breathe from all the violence that was captured on the hung texts and photographs.

The path curved out for us offered my soul no resting point. Each turn was also flooded with documents such as letters, newspaper articles, and books, artwork and personal items depicting the evil that was perpetuated. The personal testimonies shared were worded tears.

But what shattered me most was the then world’s response to the events happening. News articles posted up showed people who chose self-preservation. They talked without speaking by ramping up border walls. They heard but didn’t listen. The power of silence remains unmatched.

At the tail end of the tour is the Hall of Names which has over three million names of those who died. Names will never be responded to on this side of life.

It was the bright light when we reached outside that brought me back to the present time. The Jews have been referred to fondly as God’s chosen people. However, not once did I find myself questioning God. How would I hold Him responsible for the vile actions of a man’s wicked heart?

The children who were also carried by the river of hatred are also commemorated in the Yad Layeled. The dark room featured LED screens containing their faces in happier times. 1.5 million is the figure given for those that perished.

Mixed bag of emotions

Within the museum is also a garden with hundreds of trees. So tall as if to guard the souls inside. These trees were planted to honour those who risked their lives to save those of the Jews.

Travelling turns anyone into a storyteller. Storytelling changes perspectives. I’ve found that the person whose perspective is changed first is usually me.

I had a mixed bag of emotions when I left. But more joy than sadness. I glowed in the resilience of the Jews. They overcame. The scars are not just of pain but victory.

I also thought about my close German friends. We have shared our lives – career moves, birthdays, weddings, investments, and gossip – but I can’t recall a conversation around the hard issues in the lives of those who went ahead of us. I wonder if they carry the guilt, shame and sin of their forefathers. Is it right to expect an apology from them?

All visits are pre-booked online. Payment is done at the Museum. Please note that taking pictures is forbidden.

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