A day at Yad Vasem, the Holocaust Memorial on Jerusalem’s Mountain of Remembrance is meant to be an unforgettable experience, and that is exactly what it is.
Israeli architect Moshe Safdie has created the sombre structures, which in their austerity amplify the bone chilling walk through the greatest tragedy in the history of mankind: The extermination of 6 million jews during the Nazi occupation of Europe.
David (our 75 year old guide) walked us through the history from the early anti-Jewish propaganda campaigns of the 1930es, through their incarceration in ghettos and work camps, and finally the ENDLOSUNG – the systematic extermination of men, women and children in the gas chambers of Auschwitz Birkenau and other killing factories.
Now sitting in my cozy room at The American Colony Hotel, where Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen used to hang out, I realize that the strongest impact of Yad Vasem does not come from the horrible photo displays of human cruelty.
What is still with me tonight is the dome of portraits, symbolizing the ongoing documentation efforts. Thousands and thousands of names have been entered in books, with dozens of volumes standing on black shelves under the dome. A third of the shelves are still empty, waiting for new names to be registered properly. In a small room next to the dome sits a kind elder lady with her computer. After so many decades she is still receiving incoming documentation on victims and survivors.
What is also still with me is a crude sculptural structure of broken concrete pillars, symbolizing that the lives of 1.5 million children were torn in half by the Nazi killing machine.
What is still with me most of all: David’s low voice statement that the Holocaust happened, because ordinary men and woman from all walks of life contributed to the persecution and killing of six mlllion fellow human beings. In all fairness, Yad Vasem has also registered the names of those people, who risked their own lives to assist the jews: This register of heroes totals 26.000 names.