While Dallas isn’t the hotbed of culture that Fort Worth tends to be, we do have our high points: the Dallas Opera, Deep Ellum, the West End, Fair Park, and a wide variety of museums. Speaking of the latter, the only local museum I’ve blogged about in any detail so far is the Sixth Floor Museum, which chronicles the life and death of President John F. Kennedy in detail. Dallas is where the president was murdered, coming up on 45 years ago now, so I guess we’re entitled to commemorate that particular heartbreak. But a few blocks away is a museum and educational center recording an unimaginably huger tragedy, one that ever person on this Earth should be battered about the head and shoulders with until they’ve gotten the lesson ingrained in them to such an extent that it never, ever happens again: the Jewish Holocaust in Germany in World War II.
The Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, as it’s officially known, is located in a historic building on Record Street in the West End, a short walk from the Sixth Floor Museum and the John F. Kennedy Memorial. Why Dallas has a Holocaust museum I don’t quite understand (we’re not exactly a center of Jewish-American culture), but the Dallas Holocaust Museum is just as it should be: powerful, disturbing, and painful, the emotional equivalent of a smack in the gut with a two-by-four. The DHN is simultaneously a monument to the human ability to hate, and a memorial to our ability to face the worst aspects of our nature without trying to sweep them under the rug — unlike what was long done with the JFK Memorial, until the Sixth Floor rescued it.
I’m not Jewish myself, but the reality of the Holocaust fills me with quiet despair every time I think about it. it’s hard to understand why Mother Nature should bother continuing with the human experiment, if this is what we’ve come to. Yes, we humans are capable of wondrous works and amazing acts of kindness and beauty, but acts like the ones documented in the picture below wipe all that goodness off the ledger. This is a photo mural from the foyer of the museum. Look closely and you’ll see that those knobby stick-like things in the wagon are what’s left of dozens of human beings, starved and tortured to emaciation and then murdered once there wasn’t an ounce of dignity left to them.
This is not the sort of museum I’d normally go to; maybe it’s because, like many of us, I’d rather turn away than face the horror of what happened almost seven decades ago now in Central Europe. I’m not proud of my reaction. Millions of minority people were killed in Nazi Germany and its occupied territories because people turned away. More than six million of them were Jews, but the total numbers of the murdered will never be known. Some researchers claim 11 million; some more. All killed because they were different: Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, the ill, the disabled. It makes you wonder: if I’d been in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, would I have been rounded up and put into a work camp? Or would I have been one of the people ignoring the malodorous black smoke belching from the incinerators at Auschwitz or Dachau? As Albert Einstein points out in the quote printed at the top of the mural, “The world is too dangerous to live in — not because of the people who do evil, but because of the people who sit and let it happen.”
Need more proof? Look at Darfur, or the killing fields of Pol Pot, or the ethnic cleansing horrors of post-Communist Yugoslavia. And those are just a few examples.
With the exception of a few inconsequential architectural shots, I didn’t take any more pictures at this museum than the ones you see here. This entry’s depressing enough without them anyway. More importantly, this is something that you should see for yourself. Everyone in America should go to a Holocaust Museum at least once in their life, lest we forget. Bring your children; you owe it to them. That said, the DHM is not recommended for kids under 12; it’s too horrifying. Hell, it may be too horrifying for anyone.
The Dallas Holocaust Museum is located at 211 North Record Street. Hours of operation are Monday-Friday 10 AM-5 PM, and Saturday-Sunday 11 AM-5 PM. Adult tickets cost $6; students, active military, the elderly, and groups of over 15 pay $4.