I was a little disappointed by my visit. Perhaps because I did it so quickly. 90% of the material there could have just as easily been viewed online. Very little artifact-based material, almost all text or video.
Perhaps there is something to be said about immersing oneself in a set of images and other elements for a long period of time. Video and text are often experienced more objectively, while immersion has a more formative effect.
Perhaps the experience was dulled also because I had been there before. I went while I was in DC for the Promise Keepers event in the ’90’s. The place was swarming with zionist Christians at the time. Well, it was swarming with zionist Christians yesterday, too…
There are certain events in history which have been better documented than others, or which capture our imagination more than others. The Holocaust, to me, is one such event. Placing it within the context of other mass murders by government over the last two centuries, it seems small and insignificant. The tens of millions who died at the hands of socialism, in particular, come to mind. But we can also look at those who have died at the hands of US imperial powers. How many Filipinos were slaughtered in Teddy Roosevelt’s splendid little war?
How many American citizens of Japanese descent were interred during WWII?
It is easy for nationalist Americans to point to others’ faults while brushing their own government’s under the rug. It is easy to try to make an argument that is was the Germanness of the Germans, the Japaneseness of the Japanese, the thick headed-ness of the Ruskies, etc. which was at fault, and thank God we don’t have any of those faults!
But it was statism, the belief in the effectiveness at government to control our lives and to extend beyond protection of rights and contracts into protection of jobs, of culture, and of prosperity which have motivated those who murdered in the name of justice. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom is right. We miss the point, in order to save our pride.
The Holocaust was awful, but it was not peculiar. It is the norm when the state extends beyond its limited capacity to preserve Rule of Law, if it is even capable of maintaining that.
Let me be clear, I believe that those who bless the Jews will be bless, and those who curse them will be cursed. But this blessing and this curse do not apply to the secular nation-state of Israel. They apply to the people.
The most interesting part of the museum to me was the testimony of those who escaped Nazi Germany, but were turned away by other nations, including the US. Boatloads of people were denied access to liberty, and were sent to the barren desert instead. There they did not purchase land from the peaceful inhabitants, but instead chose to take land by force.
I do not believe that there is a prophetic role for the secular nation-state of Israel. I do not believe in the Rapture. I do not believe in Christian manipulation of existing nation-states. Nation states are the mechanism for murder, both of people, and of liberty. I believe Christians should be engaged in subverting existing power structures by non-violent means and by giving of themselves sacrificially for the least of these.
We should have offered to take those exiled Jews into our homes. We should have offered to take Cambodians, Rwandans, Indonesians, and Haitians into our homes. But our own government prohibits us from making this sacrifice which our Lord commands. This may be a time to join the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in standing against the state we live under through actions deemed illegal by that state, but which are more importantly mandated by our God.
The image, by the way, is from the Armenian genocide, not from the Jewish Holocaust.