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Fodor's Washington, D.C. 2014
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Review
Museums usually celebrate the best that humanity can achieve, but this museum instead documents the worst. The permanent exhibition tells the stories of the millions of Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, political prisoners, the mentally ill, and others killed by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. The exhibitions are detailed and graphic; the experiences memorable and powerful.
The presentation is as extraordinary as the subject matter: upon arrival, you are issued an "identity card" containing biographical information on a real person from the Holocaust. As you move through the museum, you read sequential updates on your card.
Hitler's rise to power and the spread of European anti-Semitism are thoroughly documented in the museum's early exhibits, with films of Nazi rallies, posters, newspaper articles, and recordings of Hitler's speeches immersing you in the world that led to the Holocaust.
You are confronted with the gruesome, appalling truths of the Holocaust in the deeply disturbing exhibit The Final Solution, which details the Nazis' execution of 6 million Jews. Exhibits include film footage of scientific experiments done on Jews, artifacts such as a freight car like those used to transport Jews from Warsaw to the Treblinka death camp, and crematoria implements. There are films and audio recordings of Holocaust survivors telling their harrowing stories.
After this powerful experience, the adjacent Hall of Remembrance, filled with candles and hand-painted tiles dedicated to children who died in the Holocaust, provides a much-needed space for quiet reflection.
Like the history it covers, the museum can be profoundly disturbing; it's not recommended for children under 11, although Daniel's Story, in a ground-floor exhibit not requiring tickets, is designed for children ages eight and up. Ask for the Family Guide that accompanies the exhibits for children.
Plan to spend two to three hours here, and get here well before last entry to the permanent collection at 4:30.
Check at the desk for any special programs scheduled that day.
Timed-entry passes (distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at the 14th Street entrance starting at 10 or available in advance through the museum's website) are necessary for the permanent exhibition in March–August. Allow extra time to enter the building in spring and summer, when long lines can form. In September–February, no passes are required.
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