- Type: Culture
NileGuide Expert tip:
This powerful, emotionally intense memorial should not be missed.
Twenty-five million people from 100 different countries have visited this museum since it opened in 1993, and the museum continues to be a top draw. In the busiest months, April through July, if you arrive without a reserved ticket specifying an admission time, you'll have to wait in line to get one of the 2,000 day-of-sale tickets the museum makes available each day.
Before you visit the museum, you might want to access its website, www.ushmm.org, and download copies of the Visitors Guide and the Permanent Exhibition Guide. These are also available at the museum, of course.
As you enter the museum, you may find the noise and bustle of so many visitors disconcerting, or at odds with the experience you expect is coming. But things settle down as you start the tour. When you enter, you will be issued an identity card of an actual victim of the Holocaust; at several points in the tour, you can find out the location and status of the person on your card -- by 1945, 66% of those whose lives are documented on these cards were dead.
From its collection of more than 12,435 artifacts, the museum has organized some 900 items and 70 video monitors to reveal the Jewish experience in three parts: Nazi Assault, Final Solution, and Last Chapter. The tour begins on the fourth floor, where exhibits portray the events of 1933 to 1939, the years of the Nazi rise to power. On the third floor (documenting 1940-44), exhibits illustrate the narrowing choices of people caught up in the Nazi machine. You board a Polish freight car of the type used to transport Jews from the Warsaw ghetto to Treblinka and hear recordings of survivors telling what life in the camps was like.
The second floor recounts a more heartening story: It depicts how non-Jews throughout Europe, by exercising individual action and responsibility, saved Jews at great personal risk. Denmark -- led by a king who swore that if any of his subjects wore a yellow star, so would he -- managed to hide and save 90% of its Jews. Exhibits follow on the liberation of the camps, life in Displaced Persons camps, emigration to Israel and America, and the Nuremberg trials. At the end of the permanent exhibition is a most compelling and heartbreaking hour-long film called Testimony, in which Holocaust survivors tell their stories. The tour concludes in the hexagonal Hall of Remembrance, where you can meditate and light a candle for the victims. The museum notes that most people take 2 to 3 hours on their first visit; many people take longer.
In addition to its permanent and temporary exhibitions, the museum has a Resource Center for educators, which provides materials and services to Holocaust educators and students; an interactive computer learning center; and a registry of Holocaust survivors, a library, and archives, which researchers may use to retrieve historical documents, photographs, oral histories, films, and videos.
The museum recommends not bringing children 11 and under; for older children, it's advisable to prepare them for what they'll see. You can see some parts of the museum without tickets, including two special areas on the first floor and concourse: Daniel's Story: Remember the Children and the Wall of Remembrance (Children's Tile Wall), which commemorates the 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust, and the Wexner Learning Center. There's a cafeteria and museum shop on the premises.
Holocaust Museum Touring Tips -- Because so many people want to visit the museum (it has hosted as many as 10,000 visitors in a single day), tickets specifying a visit time (in 15-min. intervals) are required. Reserve as many as 40 tickets in advance via Tickets.com (tel. 800/400-9373; www.tickets.com) for a small fee. If you order well in advance, you can have tickets mailed to you at home. You can also get as many as 20 same-day tickets (if available) at the museum beginning at 10am daily (lines form earlier, usually around 8am).
- © Frommer's 2013
Ask a local about United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumLocals have answered 28 questions about Washington DC.
Ask Washington DC Locals about United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Highly Recommended 2009
- visit website
- tel: +1 202 488 0400 / +1 202 488 0406
- 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place SW
- Formerly 15th St. SW; near Independence Ave., just off the Mall
- Washington, DC 20250
- Daily 10a-5:30p