I had previously visited the JHC as part of my year ten high school curriculum. We had been studying the Holocaust in Religious studies for several weeks and had just finished watching Steven’s Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.
It was an overwhelming and confronting excursion- probably the most powerful of any educational trip I’d taken before.
However, one thing I clearly remember is that it was an excursion not many had an interest in attending. If it hadn’t been a requirement to go, perhaps a number would have just skipped it all together.
Over the years, many young people I have spoken with are perplexed as to why we still continue to study such a tragic event.
Shockingly, some of them were even unaware of what the Holocaust was.
From a young age, my dad instilled into me that it was important to learn about the past.
Echoing the words of philosopher George Santayana, he taught me that ‘those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’
We must learn from humanity’s past mistakes to ensure that they never occur again.
And this is why it’s so important to remember the Holocaust.
This poses the very sad reality that shortly, there will be no one that can provide a first-person account of this dreadful event.
It is up to us to continue to talk about this horrific event so that generations to come will be aware of the past errors in humanity and hopefully, will ensure that this kind of evil never occurs again.
For this reason, it is vitally important that students visit museums such as the JHC and develop their knowledge about the Second World War.
There is always something new to learn- some fact or first-person account from the Holocaust that you will have not read in your history books.
Because believe it or not, there are some people out there claiming and preaching that this awful moment in history never occurred.
During my second trip to the JHC, I found myself discovering things about the Holocaust I wasn’t previously aware of, including Australia’s response to those trying to migrate from Europe at the beginning of the war.
I also learned that women in Nazi Germany who bore a certain number of Aryan children were awarded medallions and that SS officers kept detailed records of those individuals they executed.
Very, very disturbing.
Both times I visited the JHC, I’ve had the great privilege of hearing two Holocaust survivors speak.
Listening to them talk about what life was like for them during history’s darkest hour is something that will stay with me forever.
This past week in my theoretical journalism unit, we were discussing travel journalism and how there has been a significant rise in what academics regard as dark tourism.
Dark tourism is regarded as a type of tourism that involves traveling to particular places associated with death or suffering.
A list of the top ten most popular tourism sites reveals locations that we are familiar with- Ground Zero, Alcatraz, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, Pompeii, Anne Frank’s house and Auschwitz- just to name a few.
So why are people inclined to visit such sombre places?
Is it through acts of voyeurism and schadenfreude that tourists add these sites to their travel to-do list?
For me, I think the reason why people choose to visit these places, is so that they can process parts of history that are otherwise unfathomable.
But it’s also okay to choose not to go to these sites.
I’d like to finish off this blog post by encouraging you all to visit the JHC in Elsternwick if you haven’t, already.
It is truly an experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
– C x