I do my own thing a lot here, in Paris. I can only stand my group most of the time and in honesty, this trip was for me. I intended for this to be a trip about me and for me because - when else can I get that? When else will I be allowed? The circumstances surrounding me going are straining and made it hard for me to go. But ultimately, I'm here. And I can honestly say I've made the most of my days here through and through.
My visit to Memorial de la Shoah was most powerful than I anticipated. Like the Notre Dame Cathedral, this really took me by surprise. Partly because of what I saw, but mostly because of its effect on me. My reaction. We know the big picture of the Holocaust. 6 million Jews lost their lives and following this atrocity people tried to sweet it under the rug and conceal history. Numbers were tattooed on people, labeling them as a mere object, really. The fact that one person convinced an entire population that another wasn't worth it and brainwashed them to essentially deface and devalue the core of mankind, what ties us altogether, and humanity is unreal. It's astonishing really, how you can look at a real person and render them object. Ridding them of the essence of being real, tangible, living, feeling . . just because you were made to believe so.
What astonished me the most was all the background details of the entire deportation/extermination process. Medical files. Screenings. Experiments. Documentation on train schedules for deporting masses. The companies that manufactured gas tanks. It is literally mind-boggling to me that people consented to be part of this whole process. The fact that real effort and real work was put into organizing this mass atrocity appalled me. I couldn't believe it, seeing pictures of women and children during the selection process and realizing that the way their foot was turned, the direction of their next step, determined the rest of their lives. Or lack of life, really. Seeing photos of naked women clutching onto infants like gripping them as hard as they can would make the SS go away and the image around them distill, dissipate, disappear, and evaporate into thin air was what struck the cord. Just stripped to their most bare elements, defenseless, weak, knowing nothing but to give in and see their own death awaiting them . . having to put their own child through that. I literally couldn't handle it.
It's a small place, but a beautiful memorial. I spent maybe an hour in their permanent exhibition, which is just their bottom floor. Something to do with ashes of those who had died also rest their, I think. I forget.
But if you're into learning about the Holocaust and the stories surrounding it, this memorial was the place to do it. When you first walk in there is a wall of names of people who were deported according to year. And images at the end of the tour, portraits of those who had died, upon a background of soft, white light. Really loved my visit.
And forever in our memories, always.