Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Richmond Holocaust Museum Field Trip

I teach a weekly U.S. History class to 12 teens and tweens in our Co-op.  We recently went on a field trip to the Richmond Holocaust Museum which I have to say is a fabulous museum.  In fact, I believe it's even better than the D.C. Holocaust Museum. It's fascinating, heartbreaking and very interactive.

Mikaela wrote the following article about our fieldtrip for The Voice, a statewide homeschooling magazine.  I'll let her tell you all about it:

The Richmond Holocaust Museum Field Trip by Mikaela
Recently, my homeschool co-op has been learning about the Holocaust in our history class.  In order to understand it better, we read The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom as well as The Diary of Anne Frank. We also watched the movie The Boy in Stripped Pajamas. All of these assignments were based on true stories and I felt like I had a pretty good understanding of the Holocaust, but then our co-op went on a field trip to the Richmond Holocaust Museum.  It wasn’t until I went there that I actually felt the true horror of that tragedy.
            The Richmond Holocaust Museum is located on East Cary Street in the Shockhoe Bottom area of the city.  Instead of going directly to the museum, we decided to take the “scenic route” there, so we parked at Tredegar Iron Works and had an enjoyable, mile long hike along the Canal Walk.  

Here's some street art along the Canal Walk

           When we arrived at the museum, our tour guide had us watch a video about the Holocaust.  The video recounted the horrific experiences of the Ipson family. The Ipson family were Lithuanian Jews who were rounded up and put into a ghetto, which was basically a Nazi- run work camp where Jews were forced to work long hours for no pay and very little food.   Most of the people in the ghetto died.  The educated professionals were executed outright because the Nazis feared they would outsmart them and rebel.  Many others were shipped out to concentration camps where they were also killed.  The Ipson family was lucky because the Nazis mistakenly believed that Mr. Ipson was a mechanic, so he and his family were not killed.  Instead, they used him to fix their vehicles.  Eventually, the Ipsons escaped from the ghetto and spent the next 9 months in hiding.  For most of this time, they lived underground in a small hole used by a local farmer to store potatoes.  At the end of the war, they were repatriated by the Russians and ultimately immigrated to Richmond, Virginia.  After arriving in America, the Ipsons started a successful auto parts business and used the proceeds to help fund the Holocaust Museum.  

             The museum educated us greatly about the Holocaust, but what I found most interesting were the exhibits about the concentration camps. I learned that the Nazis had literally thousands of concentration camps which were used to eliminate people they considered undesirable.  These included Jews, gypsies, mentally and physically handicapped people, as well as prisoners of war.  The exhibit had a real rail car that was used to transport prisoners, a “shower room” which was really a gas chamber, a crematorium, as well as a room that was a bunkhouse.   

 One thing I will never forget is the exhibit about the harmful “medical experiments” the Nazis did on the prisoners, even children.  The Germans did these experiments often just to torture people.  For example, they would seal people in a tube and see how much air pressure the human body could endure.  Or they would put prisoners in a bath of ice cold water and then put them in boiling water to see how quickly their bodies could adapt to different temperatures.  The museum had exhibits showing many of these experiments.
            The Richmond Holocaust Museum is not the most uplifting place, but I believe it’s important that everyone visit it.  The Ipson family founded the Museum to make sure that people never forget what happened and to ensure something like the Holocaust never happens again. I know that it worked for me, because I most definitely will never forget!

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Mikaela. What a moving review. It brings tears to my eyes remembering all the things we saw.