The Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC

posted by Sharon Odegaard 33 Comments

A visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum allows you to remember and honor those lost in the Holocaust. The Washington, DC museum focuses on the individuals in the story while also providing context for World War II. While some of my friends have told me they couldn’t go here, I do think the way the museum focuses on remembrance allows you to get past the darkness. It’s a way to “never forget.” Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DC

Begin at the Top

Begin your time at the Holocaust Museum by going to the top of the three floors. As you wind around and then down to the second and first floors, events of the war are presented in chronological order. Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DC

Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DCVisit Photos from One Town

The most moving display for me is the photographic project showing those who lived in Eisishok (now in Lithuania), from 1890 to 1941. This town had a large and active Jewish population for centuries. Photographs were collected from more than 100 families. The photos go from the tall ceiling down through the floors, so you see them more than once as you make your way through the museum. Looking at these faces, especially of the children, you realize that the statistics of deported and killed during the Holocaust are numbing, but each number was a person – with a face, a family, and an everyday life of celebration and sports and toys. Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DC

Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DCHolocaust Memorial Museum Washington DCHolocaust Memorial Museum Washington DCHolocaust Memorial Museum Washington DCHolocaust Memorial Museum Washington DCWalk Through the Passages

In the passages between floors, glass walls are etched with names of communities affected by the Holocaust. These are arranged by country and alphabetized, so you can find a particular town if you have family from Europe. IMG_6652

Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DCOther glass walls have names of individuals. Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DC

Tour the Many Collections

The collections in this Holocaust Museum offers large items such as the “Work Makes Free” sign that was the first sight of the concentration camp as prisoners arrived. A full-size train car sits in semi-darkness. You can walk through and imagine the fear felt by those herded aboard. Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DC


The shoes of prisoners survived the war in bunches. I have seen these in other museums, too, and they are always so amazing. To think these belonged to people walking down the street. I’m planning to see the memorial in Budapest of bronzed shoes along the Danube, honoring the Jews who died there. Here in Washington, the sheer volume of shoes is heartbreaking. Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DC

Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DCAn excellent section of the museum focuses on survivors. Videos of interviews play in a theater setting. These remind us that life and love can win over hate.

One photo of a survivor fascinated me because I just read the current bestseller, Lilac Girls. In this book, one of the main characters is in a concentration camp and is a victim of medical experiments involving the implanting of metal and bacteria in legs to “see what happened.” This is a clandestine photo taken after the war of a survivor of these experiments, with the metal still in her leg. The book is fiction but is clearly based on fact. Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DC

Another photo caught my eye — young Irena Sendler. I recently read her biography, Irena’s Children. She was 29 when the war broke out and she ended up working in the Warsaw ghetto from the outside. She ventured in and smuggled out children any way possible, along with her resistance group. They saved 2,500 little ones at great risk to themselves. Her story is harrowing and fascinating. Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DC


Read More about the Holocaust

I highly recommend Lilac Girls and Irena’s Children. And here are a few other books I recommend on the Holocaust.

Visit the Story of Daniel

The Story of Daniel on the first floor of the Holocaust Museum is an excellent presentation for children on the life of a young boy in Poland during the war. The first scenes depict normal life with a kitchen. The story moves through persecution of Jews, then being forced to the ghetto, then deportation to a concentration camp. It’s well done and presents the horrible facts in a way that children can relate to. Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DC

Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DCHolocaust Memorial Museum Washington DCKnow Before You Go to the Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Holocaust Memorial Museum website has so much helpful information if you plan to go. Suggestions for short visits and longer visits, explanations of displays, and history are available. The museum is free, but if you go from March to October, book a timed ticket ahead if possible so you are sure to get in, as it does fill up. Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DC

Focus on Hope

We came out of the Holocaust Museum with so much to think about and in a sober mood. So we walked a few long blocks and came to the Tidal Basin. The beauty of the sunset on the water brought us back to hope and faith. But we will carry in our hearts the reminder – Never forget. Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DC

This post contains affiliate links. Clicking on them may result in a commission being paid if you purchase afterwards. This is at no extra cost to you. All opinions are always my own.


Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DC
Washington DC Holocaust Museum --
Holocaust Museum, Exploring Our World

You may also like


Tamar Strauss-Benjamin at

I was back there this past summer. Such a powerful reminder of the evils that were.

Su-sieee! Mac at

The way things are today, it seems that more and more people have forgotten or have chosen not to know and learn about horrible genocides such as the Holocaust. Thanks, Sharon, for a look-see into the museum.

Jill Foley at

I’ve heard wonderful things about the Holocaust Museum…thanks for sharing these photos with us

Margaret Birding For Pleasure at

A wonderful and informative post Sharon. It was so sad and horrific in these camps and we must NEVER forgot whan happened to these people. Thanks for sharing. I hope you have a wonderful week..

Carol at

This is such an outstanding post – you always do a beautiful job presenting your travels.

image-in-ing: weekly photo linkup at

I’ve been there. It’s sobering, isn’t it?
Thanks for sharing at

Eileen at

Hello, it is a great museum, but very sad and sobering exhibits. I think it is a place everyone should visit. I hope history will never repeat this horrible time.
Happy Monday, enjoy your day and new week!

rupam { xhobdo } at

Great to read. Amazing museum.

Lady Fi at

So chilling and poignant.

Katherine at

The photos from all of those families in Lithuania are so haunting. And so beautiful. I didn’t realise that there was a Holocaust museum in Washington DC. I’ll have to visit it, even though I’m sure it would be really upsetting, I think it’s important to remember these atrocities. #CityTripping

California Globetrotter at

What a very moving post and memorial museum! Of course, living in Germany we stop to explore lots of WWII things as we find it both sad and interesting. I love the way this one collected pictures of those from Lithuania and hung them up like at home as a way to never forget them! #CityTripping

Jesh StG at

We saw Dachau in Germany (similar to Auschwitz) because two of our guests – two college people from the States wanted to see it, on our way (from Holland) to Austria. So haunting to see the gas showers. Later I literally threw up. What still stayed with me is that this happened to 6 million people. Know how you feel – afterwards you need a period of coming back to the present world. Many thanks for not shrinking back and telling this story to All Seasons!

Mandy at

When I visited the Holocaust Museum, I, too, left feeling thoughtful and reflective. Especially after seeing all of those shoes. That was the most sobering for me.

While the museum was very well put together, the large number of people that were visiting when I was there definitely took away from the experience. You could easily spend hours and hours at this museum without fighting crowds.

Lovely post. I’ve enjoyed reading all of your thoughts on your visit to DC.

Patrick Weseman at

So very powerful. Thanks for the tour of it. It is place that I really need to visit. Thanks for sharing it.

Angie at

Sharon – you presented this in such an impactful and respectful way – I was profoundly moved by this post. Yes, hope but never forget!

Cathy (Mummytravels) at

What a moving post and an impressive way to show such a dark chapter of history- the individual stories and artefacts really show the people behind the numbers. I am glad there are also some brief glimmers of hope – but however hard, I feel places like this are so important to visit and keep history alive. Never again. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

Kirstie at

Looking at these images it is hard not to be moved. That photo wall! I haven’t visited any of the European museums on the holocaust but did do the Hiroshima Peace memorial and museum in Japan. Well worth a look if you are ever over there.

Hilary at

A thought provoking and heartbreaking post about a subject that we mustn’t ever forget. I plan to take my boys there next year when my younger one is closer to 11. Thank you for sharing. #citytripping

Bryna | Dotted Line Travels at

Holocaust Museums are so important to educate and ensure that we remember what happened, in hopes it never happens again. Like you, I always find that it makes everything seem more real when you see photographs and learn about their stories, so that those who died are not just a number. Thank you for sharing.

Shona at

I agree with you Sharon, these stories are so awful but we need to remember them and the people who made them. It still astounds me that human beings can treat their own kind in such ways. I have visited Terezin outside Prague and although not a particularly uplifting experience overall I did learn about a man who also put his life on the line to rescue thousands of children. There are human beings of his kind too, thank goodness.

Lisa at

It really is so important to keep educating ourselves about everything that happened in the past. What a great post!

Ruth at

I haven’t had the opportunity to visit this place but would like to visit in the future. I have been to Auschwitz and the experience was life-changing (for real, it made reconsider a lot of things). However, my take on the place is different from the “never forget” thought.

Jenn | By Land and Sea at

I really enjoyed your post! Ifound the Holocaust Museum to be very somber. It actually gave me some anxiety and I found out, that is by design. It’s really important to remember what has happened in our past and what we all can learn from these horrible tragedies.

Sara at

This was one of the first museums I visited as a child, and it has stayed with me (and my mom) since the very beginning. When I was in college, I was able to visit the Jewish Museum in Berlin and contrast their more straightforward facts (for lack of a better term) and our “sensationalized” museum (for lack of a better word). I feel like I developed a better understanding of how things happened by visiting the museum in Berlin, but the DC museum evoked such powerful emotions. It’s an interesting contrast to think about in retrospect. The DC museum should be a mandatory visit for everyone in this country… (So many strong thoughts over here, I apologize!)

Janis at

Such a touching museum, the stories are incredibly moving. It’s so difficult to comprehend the suffering, a museum everyone should visit. #farawayfiles

dorothy at

This is a heart-wrenching post especially when you see thousands of shoes and realize that they belonged to people who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis. The photos of the children and the letters bring this era to life, never forget.

Anda at

How did I miss this? I’ve been in Washington DC so many times and yet never even heard about this museum. Looks like a very sobering experience, but very interesting to visit. #TheWeeklyPostcard

Angie (FeetDoTravel) at

This is a brilliant post. I love the mix of heartbreak and survival, so very moving. I wrote a blog post about Auschwitz so know from my research the horrors that occurred, including many different types of experiments. The photographic project was very powerful, putting a face to a name and displayed in its hundreds (if not more) was a brilliant idea. Such a great post Sharon #feetdotravel

Paul and Carole at

Such a moving post, we should never forget. So respectfully written, thanks for sharing. #feetdotravel

Corey | Fifi + Hop at

I love how your visit ended with the beautiful sunset, and a sign of hope. It’s been a long time since I’ve visited the Holocaust Museum in D.C., but similar to visiting some of the actual sites in Europe, it was hard to get through – a very well done museum, but hard to get through. It’s still hard to believe, after all this time and remembrances, that this actually happened. Like you say, find hope, but never forget. Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

Faraway Files #82 | oregon girl around the world at

[…] Mallorca | Mum’s Gone To From New Zealand to Cornwall in a Camper Van | Changing Pages The Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C. | Exploring Our […]

Jackie Smith at

Hi Sharon, your comment on my post lead me to yours and when I saw this one I had to take a look. I’ve made myself visit this Museum each time I’ve gone to D.C. as it is such an important one — not easy, but important. The shoes. The photo of the shoes gave me goosepimples, just like standing before the display always has. Thank you for such an important post. We all should be writing about these places. . .lest we not forget.

Leah at

You really captured the emotions of visiting the Holocaust Memorial. I have been a few times and am sure I will go again. I am very interested in reading Irena Sendler’s book. I am looking it up now and am going to add it to my must-read list for 2020.


Leave a Comment