Lying unobtrusively on the North side of Chicago, Skokie, Illinois, is not a place most people are familiar with. But, it is home to the fourth largest Holocaust Museum in the United States. Originally started as a store front museum, the Holocaust Museum was started after a group of Neo Nazis threatened a march on the town of Skokie, which was home to about 7,000 Holocaust survivors.

Holocaust Memorial in Skokie

These people who had kept their silence for so long decided the time had come for their voice to be heard. In 2009, they moved from the store front to a 65,000 square foot museum. Today, four students and I took a trip to see it.

We started our visit at the Holocaust Memorial, which is located just outside the Skokie library. The sculpture depicts a man who is part of the resistance, a grandfather and his grandson, and a woman holding her dead child.

Thou Shalt Not Kill

Around the base of the sculpture are inscriptions honoring those who helped the Jews and memorializing those whose lives were lost. The most interesting part to me was the portion of the Torah Scroll poking out of the rubble, stating, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” A poignant message indeed. We then moved on to the actual Holocaust Museum, which is about 10 minutes away from the library.

The Holocaust Museum was designed to depict the movement from darkness to light. The basement houses an interactive exhibit for children to examine real life situations of bullying and determine the choices they’d make in similar situations.

Darkness to Light

The main floor walks the visitor through the different stages of the war, and docent-led tours are available for this section, often led by Holocaust Survivors. Our tour guide shared about his experience when the Nazis first came for his father and step brother. His father was spared because he was sick (this was during the early years of the war), and his step brother was a Swiss citizen, and therefore untouchable. Because of a scheduling conflict, we weren’t able to hear his entire presentation.

Rear View

Of particular interest in the exhibits is an original transport train car, which visitors may stand in. The exhibit also hosts a variety of first hand testimonies, including ones recorded immediately after the war and available for interested parties to hear in the research library. One of the most notable things for me was the eye-witness footage of a number of the camps and even some executions which were clandestinely caught on tape. All in all, it was an incredible experience. If you’re ever in the Chicago area, it is well worth checking out.

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