Stretch Dance Co.’s makeup designer Brittany Vardakas has recently returned from Israel. Read about her experiences in Jerusalem and the Holocaust History Museum.
I feel as if I have just returned from another world; a place where the spirit of hardship and suffering still lingers, and yet a feeling of faith somehow trumps all the pain.
I had the opportunity to visit the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Israel. You enter the museum by walking down a small hill where a video plays of Jews living a normal life, doing daily duties, people shopping, and children playing.
As you stop to watch the images flash by, you find yourself getting more involved. The change happens so gradually that you don’t spot what’s wrong at first. Shops start to close down, streets look less busy, and you see more people sleeping outside and begging for food. Just before the video goes to blank, you see them: the Nazis.
You’ve been so involved in the video that you didn’t realize that you’re in a triangle shaped building that zigzags through till the end. You feel trapped; the only way out is to walk all the way through.
So your journey starts.
During your walk, you start with the history of Hitler. You see the tools of the trade of genocide: photos are posted everywhere, there are videos playing and displays of clothing, books, and propaganda, even hair samples that they would use to prove that you were a Jew.
You feel hatred, but it is the small things, the normal things that hit you the hardest. You see children’s toys, books, bikes, and clothing while you look at photos of tiny faces, as lost to us now as their toys were to them.
Your heart grows heavy. You think, why? The worst for me was when I had to walk over the shoes that were collected from the prisoners before they entered a concentration camp. It’s the feeling of losing something so simple that we take for granted everyday.
The last room you enter is filled with black books containing the names of the victims. There are so many books, but some have many blank pages as well, as they are still trying to get all the names of the victims.
At this point you’re exhausted.
You think that nothing can redeem, can ease the suffering of those people. You can’t even begin to put yourself in their footsteps. What it could have been like. How much pain they went through each day.
And yet I have seen Orthodox men and women in their daily lives; walking around, praying, and playing with their children. I wonder how many of these people are descendants of that tragedy. Maybe some of their parents and grandparents had shoes in that pile, maybe their sister left a toy in that display.
Despite having their hair cut off, being stripped of their clothing, being stripped of their humanity, these people have never lost sight of God. Their faith is something so beautiful and unbreakable. Their love for God is out of this world.
This trip has not yet set in with me yet. Trying to explain what I saw and what I experienced is still hard because it was so overwhelming. My life has been changed.