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Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Genocide Museum

I can’t put words to the feeling.

All I know is that stepping across the threshold to the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius hurts the soul.

Today, it’s known as the Museum of Genocide Victims.

My grandfather was imprisoned there.

Interrogated there.

Tortured there.

* * *


Blogger June Calender said...

I could not visit. to Dachau. I don't know anyone whose family died in the Holocaust but I know about the soul hurting. Thanks for saying it simply.

Fri Jun 10, 06:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are a cruel species. I think of Hamza al-Khateeb and my heart break again.

Fri Jun 10, 07:11:00 AM  
Blogger Wine and Words said...

Ouch. I've no words either. I sat here and tried to be wise. But there is no wisdom in that. There is nothing but my head bowed.

Fri Jun 10, 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Thank you, June. I do, in fact, have more to say on the subject, but I still don't have the words. Someday I might. Perhaps I never will. It's hard enough to translate heart murmurs into words. Matters of the soul? A bit too challenging.

Yes, Lilith, we are. I know I've mentioned this before, but I consider the Anne Frank House/Museum one of the most gut-wrenching experiences I've ever had. The House/Museum is modest enough. One simply walks the flights of stairs leading to the attic living quarters of the Frank family in hiding. Along the stairwell are modest placards providing a narrative of the family's efforts to remain hidden from the Nazis. We come to see how Anne Frank lived. We see the pictures of movie stars she admired taped above her desk, and contemplate her diary notes. They are tender and sensitive, to be sure, yet every bit the musings of a child. We can stare out the window just the way she did, as she longed for peace and freedom. Then we descend down stairs, descending both physically and emotionally, as we read about her family's betrayal, arrest, imprisonment, separation and...ultimately...their individual deaths. And I came to learn that she fell gravely ill mere weeks before the Allies arrived to liberate her camp. That's practically the last placard remaining before the exit door. I stumbled into sunlight and completely lost it.

I think that's what it takes: a human face. The face of a precocious young girl or a 13-year old boy such as Hamza to ram that spear of guilt and sorrow directly into the heart and conscience. Abstract numbers numb the mind. The suffering/heartache/torture of a child? That's something else. Something truly horrific.

I will note that walking through the Anne Frank House and the Genocide Museum is a quiet, reverential experience, much like what we experience when we step into the nave of a magnificent cathedral. No one talks aloud. No one gesticulates. For the most part, heads remain bowed. And there are tears.

I knew you'd understand, Annie.

Fri Jun 10, 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

I gotta say, there's been something that has been poisoning my mind: in that basement of the KGB HQ was a solitary confinement cell that was labeled the "solitary confinement in water" cell. The narrow cell was little more than a basin. There was no bedframe, no toilet, no anything 'cept four walls, basin and ceiling.

I just kinda stood there. Looking at that cell. Dying. Dying. Dying.

Fri Jun 10, 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger PattiKen said...

Man's inhumaity to man will always hurt the soul. The trouble is, it seems that too many have no soul to hurt.

Sat Jun 11, 07:27:00 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

I've started this comment three times...and, no, there are no words.

Sun Jun 12, 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Yes, Patti, there are sociopaths among us who suffer no qualms about inflicting horrors on others.

Although I do not consider myself a religious man, I derive great pleasure from visiting cathedrals and lighting votive candles in remembrance of people I love. There is so much darkness in the world. The least I can do is light a handful of tapers in places where spirits soar.

Too true, Stephanie.

Mon Jun 13, 12:14:00 AM  

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