By Alexis Herr
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum closed its doors in compliance with the government shutdown, but its website remains a vibrant resource for Holocaust education and discussion. “Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust,” a recently installed exhibit on witnesses, compliers, and profiteers has a physical space in the Museum that closed because of the furlough, but its online virtual home is available despite the shutdown. Unafraid to ask the tough questions, the exhibit explores how silence in Europe reinforced perpetrators and facilitated the Judeocide.
The online exhibition probes different categories of witnesses whose work and silence contributed to an environment that permitted genocide. Teachers relayed the government’s xenophobic rhetoric and expelled their students from the classroom. Local police all over Europe collaborated in the arrest and deportation of Jews. Friends denounced their Jewish comrades and neighbors. Labors and office workers went about business as usual even if their job entailed processing plundered Jewish property and goods. In a landscape of perpetrators, silent witnesses, and resistors, why did Europeans respond to the Judeocide in such different ways?
Perhaps one of the more horrifying facts about the Holocaust is that the vast majority of Europeans never physically killed a Jew, but their complicity and silence permitted others to. Washington, DC’s Holocaust Museum, even when closed, provides ample opportunity to engage with the most essential and important questions raised by the genocide.
Check out the Online Exhibit Here and when the government reopens visit the physical space too!