Before we went to the Sydney Jewish Museum we were asked the question; What do you already know about the Holocaust? (When and where is happened; who was involved; why it happened; who was responsible?)
My response to the questions was very vague as i didn’t know a great deal about the holocaust, but i did know the basics of what happened. I knew that it occurred during WWII and was a direct cause of Hitlers reign in Germany. I knew that it involved the Jewish community and that the Nazi’s were responsible for the death of a majority of the Jewish Community.
We were then shown some videos and given more information into what happened throughout the Holocaust, and we were told the museum would be quite ‘confronting’ and may make us ‘cry’.
I think the school hyped up the museum to much and they made it out to be a lot more confronting then what it really was. After listening to the story from Peter, a holocaust survivor, and walking through both the museum and both memorial areas, i didn’t feel as confronted as the school had said. I wouldn’t necessarily say i felt numb and didn’t respond to the experience, however i don’t think i expressed the similar emotions to those the school had suggested we would. I felt as though we had already been given an above par amount of information and background history, so by the time we started to go through the museum and hear all the stories and facts, it was only a mere reassurance to everything the school had told us. I did enjoy enjoy my experience and i did find out new things which i had never been told, but a lot of the hard hitting facts that i think were meant to surprise and shock us, have been drilled into our heads for as long i can remember.
After we returned from the museum, we were taken into groups and were asked to write about our experience. The following is my response to the museum based on the questions we were asked.
Anything you learnt; There was 186 concentration camps throughout the European region. You are only classified Jewish if your mother was Jewish, otherwise you had to convert to the religion
Anything that shocked you; They killed 70 000 disabled people, their own people. It intrigued me to know that there were so many unanswered questions still to this date, and so many people who to this day, we do not know their exact fate. Many would turn their nose up to the Jewish community during the Holocaust due to how many unanswered questions they had.
What would you like to know more about; I would like to hear more personal accounts from survivors. I would like to see more photos and hear more real life accounts. I would like to know how they felt and acted at the time. i would like to know more statistic and numbers from the events.
We were also asked to discuss the issue of balancing loyalty to authority vs personal moral responsibility. I think the time had a very kill or be killed mentality. Those who refused to kill would be killed and those who killed, were saved. I don’t think their mentality was very thought through, nor was it based on anything besides the idea that what Hitler was doing was for the best. I think the Holocaust gave you a very pressing decision; Turning your friends in for personal gain and the chance to be safe, or risking your own life in order to hide them. I think those who risked their life for friends who were Jewish were very brave and showed such a selfless act.
Overall, i did really enjoy the Jewish Museum. It didn’t feel as confronting as the school made it out to be, however i did find out things i did not previously know. The museum did help me gain a better understanding of the events that occurred, however, i think we as teenagers are a lot more accustomed to the real life facts about the Holocaust, and a majority of us do know a lot more then most first presume we do.