Holocaust Memories This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Approaching the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., I thought it wasn't going to be a big deal. We had visited many museums and I had a typical 14-year-old's reaction to them ... boredom. Little did I know that this haunting, terrifying place would change my life.

Entering the museum, they gave out I.D. cards: I was a young Jewish man. They packed us into an elevator five feet by five feet. There were so many people you couldn't even think about moving. They wanted us to realize what it had been like for the Jews packed in cargo trains. I felt like I was going to die. I wanted to scream and kick to get myself out of that confined space. I whispered a sigh of relief when they opened the door and I could again feel the cooler, but strangely musty air.

The exact details of the museum are pretty sketchy to me. I'm not sure whether it was because it was a while ago or that I blocked the memories because they were so disturbing, but two things will be forever burned in my memory.

I remember walking into a room that was completely dark. The darkness wasn't what hit me first, though. It was the gut-wrenching death scent that wafted through my nostrils. My eyes sprung tears, not of sadness, but because of the odor. It was so thick that I could hardly breathe without dry heaving. When they clicked on the lights, it was all I could do not to pass out. Everywhere you looked were shoes. The horrible stench was coming from thousands and thousands of shoes that once belonged on the feet of those killed by the Nazis. There were women's, men's and children's shoes, and most horrible, babies' booties. I walked out of that room with tears staining my cheeks, knowing what I had just witnessed would haunt me for life.

Next came a scene that tore my heart out. We were walking around the museum looking at monitors that displayed gruesome pictures and videos of Auschwitz and other death camps. I stopped at one monitor that portrayed Nazi soldiers holding a group of children at gunpoint. In the time it took to blink (or maybe even less), the small congregation of children lay dead or mortally wounded at the feet of the soldiers.

As I stood there shocked by what I had just witnessed, I noticed an elderly man next to me. I couldn't have told you what he was wearing because all I noticed were his gut-wrenching sobs and a stream of tears. This man was standing in the middle of a museum crying like he had just lost his best friend. He noticed me looking at him and gave me a meek, sad smile. What he did next stunned me. He walked over to me, a 14-year-old girl he had never met, and took my hand. We stood there for a good minute before I had to leave him. I softly said "Good-bye" and patted his wrinkled hand before walking away. For that brief moment time seemed to stand still. I will never forget the face of the heartbroken stranger who took my hand that day, or his tears.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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YellowAsian14 said...
Apr. 30, 2010 at 3:45 pm
I went there when I went to D.C. Your reastion about the shoes was my own. Piles of them and all of them shoes of the mudered. when you go to the holocaust museum it gives you a lot to think about
 
jd123 said...
Mar. 30, 2010 at 10:28 am
i would cry too. that just sad what  all they went through.
 
lmw09 said...
Feb. 2, 2009 at 5:17 pm
i like this alot it gae me a 6thought n my head about what happen
 
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