Since its opening in 1993, the Holocaust Museum has attracted legions of visitors to its permanent exhibition, The Holocaust. The three-floor exhibition, containing over 900 artifacts, many video screens and four theaters showing archive footage and survivor testimony, presents a chronological history of the Nazi holocaust. On the top level, Nazi Assault covers the rise of Hitler and Nazism in the mid 1930s; the incarceration of Jews in ghettos and their murder—along with gypsies and many others—in death camps in the 1940s is the focus of Final Solution on the third floor; on the second floor, Last Chapter covers Allied liberation and subsequent war-crime trials. Visitors travel to the exhibition in a steel-clad freight elevator that deposits them into an environment of unparalleled sobriety. Themes, such as murder of the disabled, Nazi eugenics, resistance, and so on, are comprehensively covered. The photo- and text-intensive accounts of events and atrocities unfold dispassionately, but objects and symbols make powerful impressions: thousands of camp victims’ shoes piled in a heap personalize the losses.
While the main exhibition is suitable for children of 11 and over only, a specially designed children’s exhibition, Daniel’s Story, at ground level, is suitable for children of eight and over and teaches about the holocaust through the story of one boy. Other exhibitions include an examination of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The museum also attempts to highlight recent genocides and genocide prevention in From Memory to Action: Meeting the Challenge of Genocide, an installation with eyewitness testimonies and interactive displays, in the museum’s Wexner Center.
The building (designed by Pei Cobb Freed) incorporates red brick and slate-gray steel girders and catwalks, echoing death camp architecture; within the permanent exhibition, skylit zones alternate with claustrophobic darkness. Notable artworks include a Richard Serra sculpture and graceful Ellsworth Kelly and Sol LeWitt canvases. The Hall of Remembrance, the national memorial to victims of the Holocaust, is a simple, windowless space with a high central skylight of translucent glass. Narrow openings in the walls also let in light and offer partial views of the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial.