By BRYAN ANDREWS
Our group visited the Museum after a morning visit to Bethlehem. Buoyed by seeing the birthplace of Jesus and the field where the angels proclaimed the good news to the shepherds, I was not prepared for what I encountered. I had learned about the Holocaust in high school, but I had no inkling of what had actually happened – what the Jews had been subjected to and how they had suffered. Friends who had lived through WWII in Europe had told me about the inhumanity of the Nazis but nothing – nothing – had prepared me for what I saw at Yad Vashem.
The gardens were beautiful. That sculptures were impressive. The plaques honouring the Gentiles who had helped the Jews in spite of reprisals by the Nazis said clearly that there was hope for humanity. And then, I entered the Museum! I was shattered by what I saw. How anyone could sink to the levels of inhumanity that Hitler and his henchmen did is beyond comprehension. And the exhibition went on and on. By the time I reached the end, I was shell-shocked. Dazed, I walked out of the Museum, understanding that it had been built to make sure that we never forget what happened but knowing that similar unspeakable inhumanity had already been witnessed in places such as Pol Pot’s Cambodia and Idi Amin’s Uganda and that it would be seen again in the future.
But I had not seen the worst. I went into the Children’s Memorial. Hollowed out of an existing cavern, this memorial to the 1.5 million children murdered by Hitler is lit by a single candle that reflects of a series of mirrors and glass panels over and over and over again so that it seemed as if I could almost see infinity. Names of children seemingly floated in air as the mirrors drew my attention to them and, in the background, the vocal monotony of a man and a woman recited an endless list of children brutally murdered by Adolf Hitler.
An overwhelming sadness descended upon me and I was compelled to remove my sandals because I was on holy ground. Tears flowed freely as I walked barefoot through the memorial. Outside, I wept silently a while longer. Then, I walked back to the coach to join the rest of my group.