Sunday, January 24, 2010

Remember the Past. Transform the Future.

Today I visited the new Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in nearby Skokie, which was of course a very moving experience. The tour today was a special event for Grinnell College alumni, because president and founder of the museum (and 2009 Chicagoan of the Year) Sam Harris is a Grinnell alum.

We gathered in the auditorium--alumni ranging from the class of 2008 back to the class of 1928--and Sam Harris spoke to us about his experiences as a young boy in the ghettos and in the concentration camps. His story touched everyone, and he is the person who made the museum possible. I learned that Skokie, Illinois had the high highest concentration of Holocaust survivors in the United States, which is why it was chosen as the location for the museum.

On the tour itself, we saw all kinds of artifacts that survivors had donated, from documents to shoes, and the photos throughout the museum evoked a lot of emotion from everyone. The most powerful part of the tour for me was an actual German train car, and standing inside this car filled me with sadness and awe.

The conclusion of the tour featured a video that really brought home the idea of the museum's motto: "Remember the Past. Transform the Future." The video portrayed all the genocide that has occurred since the Holocaust, with voiceovers by survivors of all of these instances of genocide.

So it was a somber Sunday, but I'm very glad I did it, and meeting Sam Harris was a great honor.


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