Monday, February 28, 2011

Two Friends and Two Museums

On Feb 19 John and I were going to take a day to do sight-seeing in Washington DC, but the subway stations we needed to travel through were closed for repairs.  It was also an extremely windy day, so we decided to stay home.  We'd reserve our day out for the next Saturday, Feb 26.

Then on Tuesday we got a call from Daniel and Victoria, asking if they could come visit.  We met Daniel in Niger when he came out to teach Math at Sahel Academy.  During his time there, his fiancee, Victoria, came to visit, so we got to meet her.  We visited them in Chicago last September and went to their wedding last January.  Daniel spent a lot of his time in Niger, not just teaching, but also mentoring the high school kids.  He had a huge impact on Suzanne's life.  Daniel and Victoria are preparing for missionary service and well, we just really enjoy being with them.  So of course we were excited when we heard they were coming!

We decided to move our plans for a day in DC up to Friday instead of Saturday so we could enjoy the outing with Daniel and Victoria.  Our first stop was the Smithsonian, particularly the African Art Museum. They had a lot of stuff that we've seen in museums in Jos and Niamey, but it was still interesting.  One of the most interesting was this henna gourd.  In Niger, and probably most of West Africa, the women love to decorate their hands and feet with elaborate henna designs.  Suzanne and I have even done this.  But apparently back in the day, the women put their hands in these gourds while the henna was setting.  Nowadays, women put their hands in plastic bags like you take your groceries home in.  

John and I had our honeymoon in Washington DC.  During our honeymoon we spent hours one day trying to find the African Art Museum which was then being housed in temporary quarters somewhere else.  So, it was fun to finally get to see it....almost 25 years later!
  
We didn't see the entire museum because we also planned on seeing the Holocaust Museum which we knew would take a long time to get through and we also knew it closed at 5:30 p.m.  So we hurried on our way, stopping to get a hot dog at a stand.  The day had started out feeling very warm, but by the time we got our hot dogs, it was extremely windy!


We couldn't take pictures in the Holocaust Museum.  It was a four-story building and each floor was packed with information to absorb.  It all became a bit much after awhile and my back was killing me from standing so long.  But it was definitely worth it.  Some of my favorite things were:
1.  The shoes.  There were piles of shoes that had been taken from Jewish people who were gassed.  There was a poem there that said: 
We are the shoes, We are the last witnesses
We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers.
From Prague, Paris and Amsterdam
And because we are only made of fabric and leather
And not of blood and flesh,
Each one of us avoided the Hellfire
-Yiddish poet Moses Schulstein
2.  The little things that had been taken from the prisoners who thought they were simply being moved from one ghetto to another.  There were tea strainers, eye glasses, silverware, razors, and all sorts of little things.
3.  The mock-up of the gas chambers.  It just graphically told the story of how they went in the door of the gas chamber having no idea what was about to happen to them.
4.  The bunk room with actual bunks from the camps and also the train car that you could go in.  It made the whole story very real.
One of the things that struck us was the way the whole holocaust was extensively documented by pictures and records that were kept.  To Hitler it was all a scientific experiment to be documented.  I'm sure the Nazis thought they would increase in power and that those pictures would never be used against them because they would soon exterminate all those weaker than them.

Another thing that moved me was the progression of the evil.  At first benches and public places were marked "Jews only" (which idea they got, by the way, from the United States with our segregated "Coloreds only".  Shame on us!).  Then they began boycotting Jewish places of business.  That was soon followed by sterilizing all who were mentally handicapped, deformed, or in some way less than perfect.  Jewish people were then moved into ghettos and from there on to the camps where the fittest were left to become slaves of the Third Reich while everybody else was gassed.  

And the scary thing is that any government, any country, any individual, is capable of the same hatred and horrible acts while excusing it as "scientific" or "for their own good".  

We left the museum to discover it had turned cold again.  We were glad to hurry home to our crock pot full of groundnut stew!

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