United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The creation of The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum—America’s memorial to the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust and our national institution for the documentation, study, and interpretation of Holocaust history—began as an idea in 1978 which, transformed into reality, has become an internationally recognized institution visited by 2 million people annually.
On November 1, 1978, President Jimmy Carter established the President’s Commission on the Holocaust, and charged it with the responsibility to submit a report on three significant issues: the creation of an appropriate memorial to those who perished in the Holocaust; the feasibility of creating and maintaining a memorial through contributions by the American people; and recommendations for appropriate ways the nation could commemorate Days of Remembrance each year for victims of the Holocaust.
Chaired by author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, the Commission submitted its report to President Carter on September 27, 1979. The Commission’s recommendation was to establish a memorial with three main components: a national Holocaust memorial/museum; an educational foundation; and a Committee on Conscience. In 1980, the United States Congress, by unanimous vote, established the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, with its mandate being the creation of a living memorial to the 6 million Jews and millions of other victims who perished during the Holocaust.
Dedication ceremonies for the Museum took place on April 22, 1993, and included speeches by President Bill Clinton; Chaim Herzog, president of Israel; Harvey Meyerhoff, chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council; and Elie Wiesel, who had been awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Several days later, on April 26, the Museum officially opened to the public—with its first visitor being His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet.
The Museum building contains permanent and temporary exhibition spaces; Remember the Children: Daniel’s Story—an exhibition for children and families that recounts the history of the Holocaust from the perspective of a child in Nazi Germany; an extensive research library and archives; two theaters; the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies; a Children’s Tile Wall; an interactive computer learning center; classrooms; the Hall of Witness; a memorial space, the Hall of Remembrance; and an education center. The Permanent Exhibition The Holocaust spans three floors of the Museum building, and through historical documents, artifacts, photographs, film footage, historical and personal photographs, oral and video histories, and more, presents the full history of the Holocaust in three distinct sections: “Nazi Assault,” “Final Solution,” and “Last Chapter.”
Special exhibitions presented by the Museum—in the Kimmel-Rowan Exhibition Gallery and in gallery space adjacent to the Gonda Education Center—provide compelling, detailed looks at special aspects of Holocaust history, and have included The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936, Flight and Rescue, Liberation, The Hidden History of the Kovno Ghetto, The Art and Politics of Arthur Szyk, Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933–1945, Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burnings, Anne Frank, the Writer: An Unfinished Story, Life in Shadows: Hidden Children and the Holocaust, and Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race.
Since the opening, traveling exhibitions and the Museum’s public programs have extended the reach of the institution’s resources to dozens of communities across the United States, and Days of Remembrance commemorations are now held across the country every April. In addition, the Museum’s Web site provides a vast amount of content, including the Holocaust Encyclopedia, special focus pages about topics of current interest, access to the Museum’s document and photo collections, Committee on Conscience presentations, and online versions of past and present Museum exhibitions.
Archival and Other Holdings
The Museum’s collection is the basis for investigating aspects of the Holocaust and its lasting impact. In order to properly understand the events associated with the Third Reich and the Nazi occupation of Europe from 1933 to 1945 within their historical context, the temporal parameters of collecting activity extend from the end of World War I to the close of the Jewish displaced persons (DP) camps in the mid-1950s.
The Museum’s collection is represented by a broad range of subject areas, including:
- Prewar communal life of victim groups in affected areas of Europe and North Africa
- Nazi rise to power
- Nazi racial “science” and the propaganda campaign against Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and other targeted groups in Germany during the 1930s
- Flight of victim groups from Nazi-occupied Europe and refugee communities in various countries
- World response to the rise of Nazism and the persecution of Jews and other targeted groups
- Nazi occupation policies and practices
- Roundups, deportations, and murder of European Jewry
- Mass shootings conducted by the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads) as well as other German and indigenous police and auxiliary units
- Ghettos, concentration camps, labor camps, and killing centers
- Fate of Poles, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the mentally and physically handicapped, Soviet prisoners of war, and other targeted groups during the war
- Persecution of and by indigenous populations
- Nazi collaborators
- Regimes of the Nazi satellite states and their treatment of the populations under their control
- Resistance to Nazi policies and actions
- Rescue efforts and Bricha
- Life in hiding during the Holocaust
- Discovery, disclosure, and liberation of the concentration and death camps
- War crimes trials and the search for and apprehension of war criminals
- Experiences and testimonies of victim groups following liberation
- Jewish experiences in displaced persons (DP) camps and elsewhere
- Legal and illegal immigration to Palestine, the United States, and other countries
- Victim reparation and compensation
- Holocaust memorialization and commemoration
- Contemporary documentation regarding Holocaust deniers
Finding Aids, Guides, and Publication
The online Collections Search provides detailed descriptions of the Museum’s diverse collections, including publications, photographs, objects, documents, recordings, moving images, films, music, and oral histories.
The Library and Archives reading rooms are open to the public from Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and closed on federal holidays and Yom Kippur. The reading rooms are located on the Fifth Floor of the Museum building.
No appointment is necessary to visit the reading rooms or to use Library materials; however, patrons are advised to contact us in advance if planning to use archival collections. With advance notice, an archivist or curator could be available to assist you on-site.
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Text cited from: www.ushmm.org/ (27 August 2014)