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The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

by Katie Calvert

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. bears witness to the methodical discrimination, persecution, and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime.

The museum, which opened in 1993, is located a block away from the Washington Monument, very close to the National Mall.

US Holocaust Memorial MuseumThe Holocaust Memorial Museum uses photographs, films, artifacts, and carefully designed interactive displays to help visitors understand how a fringe political group rose to power in 1930s Germany and then planned and carried out history’s largest genocide, which also took the lives of millions of other people (the Roma, Slavs, Serbs, the disabled, Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals) that German authorities felt were racially inferior or dangerous to the state.
Planners wanted visitors to have a visceral experience as they walk through the museum. Before entering the elevators to the fourth floor where the exhibition begins, visitors are encouraged to take and read an Identification Card that tells the story of a real person who lived during the Holocaust.
The museum’s chronicle of the Holocaust is filled with real people—individual faces look out from the pictures, and voices of Holocaust survivors tell their stories. At one point the museum’s passageway makes visitors walk through a railroad boxcar that was used to transport prisoners to concentration camps. The horrors of the Holocaust are made palpably real.
Inside Holocaust Memorial Museum entranceThe museum was designed by architect James Ingo Freed, who visited numerous concentration camps and ghettos in preparation for this commission. Freed’s building and the layout of exhibits guide visitors through the years from 1933 to 1945, during which laws that discriminated against Jews turned to incarceration and murder as Hitler’s “Final Solution” was enacted with methodical precision.
Admission to the Holocaust Memorial Museum is free, but timed passes are required for the permanent exhibition, which is housed in the building’s top three floors. Most visitors spend an average of two to three hours in the museum’s permanent exhibition.
Please note that the permanent exhibition may not be suitable for children under the age of 12. Parents are encouraged to lead their children through the first floor’s Remembering the Children: Daniel’s Story, an exhibit that views the Holocaust through the eyes of an 8-year-old Jewish boy in Germany.
Young museum-goers may also be interested in seeing the Children’s Tile Wall (found in the lower, Concourse Level). The wall displays more than 3,000 tiles, each painted by a young child, and commemorates the more than 1.5 million children killed during the Holocaust.
Hours of operation, closed days and other visitor information are available from the Holocaust Museum website.

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