Thursday, July 21, 2011

Holy Land Tour: Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Museum

The day continued on a somber note as we traveled by bus to Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Museum, located several miles away from the old city on top of one of the Jerusalem hills. The name of the museum comes from a verse in Isaiah:

"And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (a "yad vashem")... that shall not be cut off." Isaiah 56:5

 After entering the reception area of the museum we passed through the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations which honors Gentiles who risked -- and sometimes lost-- their own lives trying to rescue Jews from the Nazi's "final solution."  For example, Oscar Schindler of "Oscar's List" is honored with a tree and a plaque on the avenue.

Photography is not permitted inside the museum, so I don't have any interior photos to share. The architecture is very effective: you enter into a wide corridor that opens into rooms on either side for the exhibits and as you walk through the museum the pathway narrows until it brings you out into the light. Our guide explained that it was meant to replicate the passageways Holocaust victims walked on their way to the gas chambers. A chilling thought.

One of the most inspiring stories in the museum involved a bicycle that was suspended from the ceiling. Since I couldn't take a picture of it, our guide Lee Glassman kindly sent me a picture he had of the bicycle just before it was taken to the museum for display.

This bicycle belonged to Marie Rose Gineste, a young woman who was the secretary of a Catholic church in Montauban, France. The bishop of the area--who is also honored among the Righteous Among the Nations--prepared a letter of protest begging his flock to "go forth and protect Jews from deportation" by the Nazis who now controlled the country. 

Marie Rose persuaded the bishop not to mail the letters because the post was no longer secure. She volunteered to deliver the letters in person and rode this bike more than 62 miles, distributing copies of the letter to all priests in the diocese. She continued to shelter Jews throughout the war.

Rose Marie kept the bicycle and continued to use it until she was 89 when she shipped it to Jerusalem for the museum. She said she kept it because it reminded her that at one time in her life she had done something really important. This photo is from a website.

Marie Rose- Gineste and her bicycle

A separate building on the grounds is a memorial to the children who lost their lives in the Holocaust. It was a moving and beautiful symbolic display inside a room with  a very high ceiling. Hundreds of tiny lights swirled around thedarkened room. These unfinished pillars are just outside the memorial, symbolizing the thousands of young lives cut short.

Tears welled up in my eyes as we left this place and others in our group were sobbing as well. It was an emotional morning, but a very important stop on our tour.

1 comment:

Robin said...

It's amazing, isn't it, the quietly heroic lives some people lead?