London Study Abroad: Paris Holocaust Museum

DMACC student Kaitlin Hartman standing outside the Louvre in Paris.

DMACC student Kaitlin Hartman standing outside the Louvre in Paris.

Note: This is a special column from a London Study Abroad student.

By: Kaitlin Hartman

Paris is a city I have wanted to visit for as long as I can remember. It is such a beautiful city with history everywhere. Dr. Jedele, three of my classmates and I went and spent all sorts of time walking around and visiting different sites throughout Paris such as Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower. However, one place we visited that I was the most interested in was the Mémorial de la Shoah, a Holocaust Museum and study center dedicated to the history of the Holocaust in France

I have always been very interested in learning about the Holocaust and different events that have happened during that time. With the Holocaust Museum in London being closed the entire semester, I couldn’t wait to be able to visit the one in Paris and get to see and learn more about the Holocaust and concentration camps.

When we walked up to the building, one of the first items that we saw when we walked into the court yard was a huge sculpture that had the names of the major death camps around it. Turning the corner were walls covered with names of people who had their lives taken from them. Seeing the amount of people from France who were taken to concentration camps (76,000) and never made it back was a very different feeling. Seeing the names of all of those people and knowing they were being remembered made it such a powerful moment, but knowing it was that many people just from one country was so hard to comprehend.

culture2The first room I saw inside the museum was a huge dark space with a big Star of David and an eternal flame in the middle with light from the ceiling shining down onto it. It turned out that it was a gravesite with ashes of victims who were found at the camps.

The next part of the museum was the most moving part of the experience. We walked through different rooms with artifacts and pictures from the Holocaust. It was a very powerful experience to see all of the first hand pictures and stories and even an outfit that prisoners would have to wear in the camps. With it being a newer museum, there was quite a bit of technology and there were several of video’s and the information was presented in both French and English which was nice because otherwise it wouldn’t have been such a moving experience.

culture3            It is good to know that the victims of the Holocaust will always be remembered because of memorials and museums that keep their memory alive. We can read about experiences that happened to those people, but actually seeing pictures and artifacts from the concentration camps make it much more real and helps make us realize that the Holocaust did happen and it isn’t just a story. Reading about such events in history books or novels is interesting, but walking through a museum and seeing pictures and reading stories makes history a living experience, rather than a reading experience.

Although I walked the streets of Paris and visited many of the usual sites like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, which will be memorable for me, my visit to the Holocaust Museum is a memory that will live with me forever.

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