Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Small Museum With A Big Impact

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington opened its doors to the public on April 26, 1993.  The Dalai Lama was the first visitor. Over the twenty years the museum has been open, 34.8 million people have visited the museum -- 1,740,000 visitors per year. About 1 in 3 visitors are school-age children; 12% are from countries other than the United States and  approximately 90% are non-Jewish.  In addition, the museum has received  96 heads of state and more than 3,500 foreign officials from over 132 countries.  The Holocaust Museum's visitor count is on par with the Kremlin in Moscow. By way of reference, the world's most visited museum is the Louvre with 9.7 million visitors a year. Marking the Holocaust Museum's 20th anniversary, former President Bill Clinton explained that in a capital city with many impressive monuments, "the Holocaust memorial will be our conscience and will be here as our conscience from now forever."

On April 29, 2013, the museum opened a new exhibit entitled "Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration & Complicity in the Holocaust." This special exhibition explores how countless ordinary people within the Reich and across Europe, from all walks of life, were essential to the execution of Nazi racial policies. It examines the spectrum of motives and pressures that influenced their choices to tolerate the persecution and murder of Jews and other groups. It also looks at individuals who did not succumb to the opportunities and temptations to betray their fellow human beings, reminding us that there is an alternative to complicity in evil acts—even in extraordinary times.