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May 05, 2005 - Image 96

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-05-05

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Arts I Life

Yom HaShoah

A New Yad Vashem

Holocaust museum is woven into the fabric of Israeli society.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

choolchildren, heads of state,
soldiers and tourists all pass
through its gates into a hush of
religious solemnity.
It is the Yad Vashem Holocaust
Memorial, whose stone buildings,
razor-wire sculptures and even trees are
soaked with meaning and the memory
of those murdered.in the Holocaust.
Yad Vashem, set in the hills of a
Jerusalem pine forest, has become the
physical symbol of remembering the
Holocaust in Israel. It has also
become part of the national land-
scape and a central site of collective
Israeli identity.
As Israel makes its way in the new
century, Yad Vashem has just opened
a new $56-million dollar museum
aimed at giving voice to the personal
stories of the 6 million Jews killed in
the Nazi genocide. The ceremonial
opening took place March 15-16; it
• opened to the public at the end of


Source Of Identity

Since it opened in 1973, Yad Vashem
has been the first stop on visiting dig-
nitaries' official tours. It is where
Israeli schoolchildren — Arab and
Jewish — often get their first real sense
of what it means to be part of a coun-
try founded in the aftermath of the
most wide-scale genocide in history.
During her recent visit here, U.S.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
emerged from the section memorializ-
ing the more than 1 million children
who were murdered — symbolized by
a sirigle candle reflected a million
times by a maze of mirrors — and
wrote in Yad Vashen-fs guest book:
"This is a place that causes all to
remember those who perished and to
accept that it must never happen again
that good men and women do not -
And the importance of memorializ-
ing the Holocaust is one of the few
issues still uniting Israelis.
On Holocaust Memorial Day, they
turn on their television sets to watch
the somber state ceremony of remem-
brance. On tours of Jerusalem, Yad

Vashem is a regular stop for Israelis
from all walks of life, from the
most left wing and secular to the
most politically conservative and
"Yad Vashem today has become
a holy site in a way, like the
Western Wall, a site that places the
memory of the Holocaust as a cen-
tral part of Israeli history," said his-
torian Roni Stauber, who has writ-
ten on the origins of Holocaust
commemoration in Israel and the
beginnings of Yad Vashem.
"Because of this, Yad Vashem has
become one of the main institu-
tions of the country," said Stauber,
who is affiliated with Tel Aviv
In Jerusalem, the author and histori-
an Tom Segev says there are three sites
that are central to Israel's identity: Yad
Vashem, the military cemetery on
neighboring Mount Herzl and the
Western Wall.
"These three places symbolize most
the worth and the ethos of what it
means to be Israelis and Jews," said
Segev, who wrote the groundbreaking

Seventh Million, which explored
attitudes toward the Holocaust
and its survivors during the early
years of the state.

Thorny Territory

The sprawling Yad Vashem complex is
more than the museum of the history
of the Holocaust, which opened in

10 Years In The Making

New Holocaust museum puts human faces on 6 million deaths.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency





The symbolically reconstructed portion of Leszno Street
in the Warsaw Ghetto in Yad Vashem's new Holocaust
.,History Museum.

hafts of sunlight spill onto the bare concrete floors and smooth
slanted walls of the new Yad Vashem museum, a skylight-topped
triangle of a building that slices through a mountainside and tries
to put human faces on the story of the 6 million Jews killed in the
A visitor descends deep into the earth and takes a zigzag path through
cavernous exhibition rooms documenting the fate of the Jewish victims
of the Nazi-genocide. A visitors walks past letters, paintings, poems,
diaries, photographs, film and personal artifacts: a doll taken into a
ghetto by a little girl, a postcard written from Auschwitz in a mother's
pleading hand.
"We want to bring a very personal encounter between the.story and
the storytellers," said Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem direc-
torate and the museum's chief curator. "We want to build empathy."
Ten years in the making, the new $56-million Yad Vashem Holocaust
History Museum opened with ceremonies on March 15 and 16 and

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