Hello! My name is Anna Barton and I am a sophomore from Eagan, MN, majoring in political science with a minor in French. Today was our first day of our J-term class “The History and Remembrance of the Holocaust.”
We started our day early at the MSP airport at 5:00 a.m., catching a flight to D.C. at 7:00 a.m. Once in D.C., we took the metro to our hostel where we will be staying for the remainder of our time in the city. Our first scheduled event as a group was a self-guided tour at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). Our group will visit the museum three more times after today, so we really have time to get to know the exhibit. Today was our first visit so we explored the main exhibit on self-guided tours, which took us about two hours. This exhibit takes visitors through various levels and rooms that detail the rise and spread of Nazism throughout Germany and the rest of Europe. This independent tour gave us each time to really reflect on what we will be learning about, so intensely, for the remainder of out J-term.
Over winter break, we were all assigned readings to prepare ourselves for our trip both around Europe and to Washington D.C. In some of our readings, such as “Auschwitz Museum Interpretation and Darker Tourism” and “Art and the Holocaust: Trivializing Memory,” the authors (William F. S. Miles and Elie Wiesel, respectively) pointed out how sometimes the way we view and memorialize tragic historical events can be problematic. This will be something that we will be discussing and considering throughout the upcoming days and remaining time that we have in the USHMM.
While at the museum, we talked briefly about a Danish boat that is displayed in the exhibit. This boat was used to help Jews escape during the Holocaust and is housed in USHMM as well as other similar museums around the world. This has left Denmark, the country that originally used these boats to save lives, with virtually no boats to display in museums of their own. This raises questions of who can claim ownership over this historical item? Questions such as this will be interesting to discuss throughout the remainder of our trip and our time at the Holocaust museum.
Tomorrow we will be heading back to USHMM for a lecture on the history of the museum by the museum’s curator of the permanent exhibit, which we visited today. Hopefully, we will have a chance to dive deeper into the exhibit and really prepare ourselves for the rest of our J-term trip.