JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C. -- The things I saw beggar description... The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were... overpowering. I made the visit deliberately in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to "propaganda."
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
April 15, 1945
Before becoming our nation's 34th president, Dwight D. Eisenhower was supreme commander of allied forces in Europe during World War II. He made the above statement after visiting a Nazi concentration camp. It's one of many remarkable quotes that can be found inside the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
A visit to the museum is a powerful lesson about freedom, hatred, war and genocide. It's a place with special meaning for Holocaust survivors - many of whom had branches of their family trees reduced to ashes in death camps and ghettos in what is widely considered the darkest chapter in the history of civilization.
The museum has a permanent exhibition called The Holocaust, which spans three floors. It's a moving and graphic exhibition that gives a narrative history using artifacts, war footage and eyewitness testimony from survivors. The exhibition has three parts: Nazi Assault, Final Solution, and Last Chapter. This is where the torture and torment of the Holocaust is captured and told through the eyes and anguish of those who lived through it.
The exhibit is heart-wrenching, but educational. It begs one to ask just how victims of the Holocaust found the will to continue living even when faced with what appeared to be insurmountable despair. A visit downstairs to the Hall of Remembrance - a memorial to victims -is poignant, uplifting and answers that question better than any. It's a solemn space designed for individual reflection. Epitaphs are set on walls that surround an eternal flame. It's a place where visitors are encouraged to light memorial candles symbolizing a renewed life.
I understood this as a very valuable lesson during the visit, as a recurring theme among Holocaust survivors was their constant hope for a better tomorrow. I believe the meaning behind the museum is the same for people of all creeds, a meaning cried out by 6 million Holocaust victims. That's to never forget the extent of man's inhumanity to man.
"We must continue the fight of bringing people closer together. Coming from African-American descent, I believe it's important to recognize the diversity we have around us," said Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Lamarsay Creer, of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling's Chapel Center. "America is a melting pot of many cultures. Learning about each will help us understand and come together."