The Most Prominent Holocaust Sites, Museums and Memorials
1. Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem in Jerusalem is a museum and a memorial of the Holocaust, in which over six million Jews, and at least five million from other ethnic groups, were murdered in an act of genocide perpetrated by the German National Socialist Party under Adolph Hitler.
Through exhibits including photographs, victims’ accounts, art installations and information panels, Yad Vashem offers a moving – and harrowing – account of the events of the Holocaust.
Anne Frank’s house was the site where German Jewish teenager and Holocaust victim Anne Frank, her family, the van Pels family and later a man called Fritz Pfeffer went into hiding from the Nazis during World War II. Tragically, the group’s whereabouts were betrayed to the Nazis and they were arrested and imprisoned in concentration camps. Anne Frank died in Bergen-Belsen in March 1945, but her diary was later discovered by her father and published to worldwide acclaim.
Anne Frank’s House is now a museum allowing visitors to see the moving bookcase, walk through the cramped secret annex and gain a true appreciation of the hardship this group endured in their fight for survival. The museum has collected and exhibits many original letters, photos and objects belonging to the Frank family as well as to the van Pels and Fritz Pfeffer. Anne Frank’s original diary is also on display.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC is dedicated to commemorating the Holocaust. Combining eyewitness testimony, displayed in films and documents, with over 900 artefacts including one of the railcars used to transport prisoners, the Holocaust Museum tells the story of this world event. The museum also looks at the issue of genocide as a whole, displaying exhibitions about other atrocities around the world. On average, a tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum takes between 2 and 3 hours.
Auschwitz Birkenau was a concentration camp founded by the Nazis near the town of Oświęcim or “Auschwitz” in Poland and which became the largest and most infamous camp of them all. Those interned at Auschwitz were subject to the most horrific treatment, including forced labour, starvation, random executions and various forms of torture such as “medical experiments”.
Auschwitz was also the central location for Hitler’s campaign to exterminate the Jews in gas chambers. By the time Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet forces on 27 January 1945, the camp had claimed 1.3 million lives, the vast majority of whom were Jewish.
Auschwitz Museum is based at the original concentration camp site and offers visitors the chance to pass through the camp's infamous arches bearing the chilling slogan of "Arbeit macht frei" or "Work will set you free". Inside, visitors can tour Auschwitz Birkenau individually or in group tours.
The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin is an installation commemorating the genocide of the Jewish people perpetrated under Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. The Memorial is a monument to the six million European Jews who died in the Holocaust. Made up of a vast dark granite maze and a subterranean information centre which has details about the victims, the memorial is a moving site.
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was used by the Nazis between 1936 and 1945. Its primary function was for the imprisonment and execution - or extermination - of Jews and political dissidents, including many Dutch freedom fighters, Russian prisoners of war and even some political leaders from invaded countries.
Its prime location near Berlin ensured that Sachsenhausen was an important camp and it served as a template for other concentration camps. Estimates put the number of Sachsenhausen casualties at between 30,000 and 35,000, many of whom were shot, hung or exterminated in a specially built room in its infirmary.
Those who enter Sachsenhausen can still see the chilling words “Arbeit Macht Frei” or “Work will set you free” emblazoned on its iron gates. Much of Sachsenhausen was destroyed during and after its liberation by Soviet and Polish troops on 22 April 1945, but was rebuilt as part of the project to turn it into a memorial and museum.
The Warsaw Ghetto was established by the Nazis to forcibly house the city’s Jewish population, with up to 400,000 people confined here from October 1940. In 1943, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising took place, a dramatic rebellion which occurred when the Nazis attempted to liquidate the ghetto and one which saw it razed to the ground.
Very little of the Warsaw Ghetto survives today. There are fragments of the original ghetto wall and several memorials including the Mila 18 monument where the uprising headquarters were located and an inscription where insurgent leader Mordechaj Anielewicz and the last of the uprising fighters perished. There is also the Warsaw Ghetto Fighters Monument and a monument at Umschlagplatz, the site from where Jews were transported to the death camps.
The Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz was the site of the infamous Wannsee Conference in which the Nazis planned how to carry out the “Final Solution”, the plan to murder the Jewish population of Eastern Europe.
On 20 January 1942, fifteen senior members of the Nazi government and of the SS met at Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz. Chaired by the head of the Reich Security Main Office Reinhard Heydrich,, this group of men determined the course of the genocide of the Jewish people in Europe which would come to be known as the Holocaust.
Today, the site provides a moving memorial to the Holocaust as well as an in-depth history of the rise of the Nazi party, the growth of anti-Semitism and the atrocities committed against the Jews.
Dachau Concentration Camp was one of the first of many concentration camps set up by the Nazis to imprison and murder certain groups as part of their campaign of genocide. Today, Dachau houses a memorial to those who suffered and perished under the Nazis. Visitors can tour the grounds and the remains of the camp and audio guides are available as are guided tours. There are several exhibitions detailing the history of the camp as well as a documentary shown at various times.
The Jewish Museum in Berlin in Germany chronicles the history of German Jews over the course of two millennia. Housed in an incredibly modern building, the Berlin Jewish Museum displays historical objects, documents, photographs, multimedia presentations and even computer games relating to different periods of Jewish history and culture.
The exhibitions are arranged chronologically and cover various themes such as the living conditions of German Jews over the centuries, the role of Jewish women, tradition and change and the meaning of emancipation. The museum also looks at the issue of persecution, in particular during the Nazi era and the Holocaust, offering an insight into both the overall historical context and the lives of individual victims of the atrocities.