Recently my Jewish motorcycle club had a booth at a big regional motorcycle show. We are trying to recruit more members. One of the most common responses was "There is a group of Jewish Riders? I thought I was the only one!!"
Anyway, one of the people who came up was a volunteer at the Virginia Holocaust Museum. What? Virginia has a Holocaust museum? Who knew? I've only been living here for 14 years. (Okay, to be fair, the museum first opened up 11 years go, so I get 3 years off my flak)
Anyway, the person who stopped by welcomed us to come ride down to Richmond and visit the museum. The group board thought this was a great idea, and the ride was scheduled for May 4th. Due to various conflicts, it wound up just being the president of the group and I. However, just outside of Richmond we met the person who first invited us down there, and another Jewish motorcyclist. They gave us an escort through the highways and streets of Richmond directly to the museum. (okay, disclaimer here... I'm still bikeless, so I went in the car... oh the shame! ;-) )
I've been to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC 3 times, and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem once. I didn't think there'd be much new. Heart wrenching, of course, but still, things that we've seen before. Well... yes and no. Some of the things were the same, but they were presented in different ways which made an impact. One of the first things that struck me as different was a room that was designed to make it look like you were on a boat, the SS St. Louis. Then later, there was a room with a crawl space. I thought it was just for show, but the person showing us around crawled in. Okay... As soon as you stood up, there were the sounds of a nasty dog barking like mad. My heart started racing. The room was designed to look like you were at the fence surrounding the concentration camps. Then we crawled again, this time the "tunnel" was completely dark, no light at all. It was very effective. It lead to a mock underground location where 13 Jews survived hidden for 9 months. We continued to crawl to exit. Very thought provoking.
Later, to exit another corridor, you enter the gas chamber. You know it's not a real gas chamber, but you see the nozzles, you see where they drop the gas, you see how the door is barricaded. Not a pleasant place to be in at all. But again, a reminder of what so many people suffered.
At the end of the museum was a new exhibit (opened on May 1st). It is a recreation of the courtroom at the Nuremberg Trials, along with a film of the trial taking place. I kept hearing over and over "Not Guilty! Following orders!" etc. Sickening.
After the museum, our escorts took us to the Richmond JCC, which had the only kosher restaurant in Richmond. We enjoyed wraps and smoothies, and wound up talking for over an hour, covering everything from motorcycles to politics, to the Holocaust, etc. I certainly hope to return again some day. Hopefully on a bike the next time!