Freshmen Visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum


Freshmen visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for the first time since 2018. Karen Ebidia via Wikimedia Commons.

On May 3, Sidwell Friends’ freshman students visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for the first time since 2018, restoring a pre-pandemic component of the World History curriculum.

According to Assistant Upper School Principal for Academic Affairs and Freshman Adviser Robert Gross, the opportunity to take students to the museum for the first time in several years was a return to normalcy and represented the school’s commitment to educating students “about the evils of historical and contemporary anti-Semitism and racism.” Gross added that the school modeled the trip’s foundations on the Quaker testimony of peace.

Pledging to combat the rising anti-Semitism in the United States, the Holocaust Memorial Museum raises awareness by creating an immersive experience through interactive and educational exhibits, including databases with over 270,000 records and photos of Jewish life from the 1930s through the 1950s.

Through the exhibits, freshman Zoe Shrank obtained a deeper understanding of the anti-Semitic events of World War II. “The visuals of the museum allowed me to feel the pain of the victims and gain a better outlook of the atrocities of the Holocaust than I could from a class discussion or textbook reading,” said Shrank.

Shrank added that she was horrified by the 13,000 pounds of Jewish hair used for various commodities, such as pillows and blankets, expressing that it “showed how insignificant Jewish lives were to the Nazi Party even after death.”

Freshman Elie Fisher believed the exhibits “opened a new door” in his understanding of the Holocaust as he “never processed the horrors the Nazi Party put the Jewish population through in various concentration camps.”

Freshman Dylan Verma said he was shocked by the Holocaust’s similarity to the Armenian Genocide, explaining how “seeing so many different cultures purge during the Holocaust in the name of Aryan supremacy was an eye-opening experience.”

From the exhibits, Gross hoped that students obtained a “more profound and more visceral understanding” of the Holocaust.

Head of School Bryan Garman noted in a statement on Holocaust Rememberance Day that “our remembrance bears witness to the horror of genocide, inspires vigilance against future atrocities and condemns the history and malevolent persistence of anti-Semitism.”

Gross was pleased with the respectfulness of the freshman class and hopes that the “intense and critical” trip will continue to be taken annually.

Reflecting on the trip, Shrank was grateful for the opportunity to explore her Jewish identity and history, especially since her grandmother was a Holocaust survivor in Poland. “As I walked around the museum, I kept my grandmother in mind, thinking about her experience and story,” Shrank shared.