Two museums, a book & Me
Posted May 18, 2011on:
I had two goals for Washington, D.C., after being with family:
• Visit the Newseum, which is a huge museum about the history of news media
• Visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. At the time, I had just started Beyond Belief: The American Press & the Coming of the Holocaust 1933-1945, by Deborah E. Lipstadt. Beyond Belief was at the literary intersection of these two museums.
As author Ben H. Bagdikian wrote, “If it were not so heavily documented, Beyond Belief is almost beyond belief. It shows how Americans, through their news media, were told of Hitler’s developing Holocaust, but were told in such a way that it made it easy for everyone – except the victims – to ignore modern history’s worst disaster.”
At the heart of this book are numerous news media reports that came to the U.S. that seemed so awful that they couldn’t be believed. Or maybe our U.S. media and government didn’t want to believe these reports.
Or maybe the media didn’t want to offend German American readers.
Or, maybe the media just raised the question, “Who cares?” They were just a bunch of Jews … Gypsies … political enemies of Hitler … communists … mentally and/or physically challenged … homosexuals, or … etc., etc., etc.
Since our son Michael was to join us on vacation in D.C., I asked if he was willing to go to the Holocaust Museum. The last time we were there, he was too little or on the Safety Patrol trip to Washington, D.C. His response was yes, but he will need to go to a petting zoo afterwards.
We spent about four hours at each museum, reading displays, watching films and buying books to read afterwards.
While much of the Holocaust museum is about the Nazi-created Holocaust, there are major sections on current genocides and encouragements for bystanders to take action to stop them.
It all reminds me of that quote about history that has several versions: “Those who ignore history are bound to repeat it.” (George Santayana and Edmund Burke.)
Those words were never more appropriate than at those two museums. But let me add my version, “Those who refuse or are afraid to recognize history are doomed to repeat it or allow it to happen again.”
When we see wrong, we need to speak out about it. Our silence is the same as agreeing with the wrong we see.