My Day at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Last week I was invited to attend a one day conference and tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum here in Washington, DC. The event was designed for senior law enforcement management and was inspired by Chief Ramsey the former chief of the Metro DC Police Department. The program started with a 2 ½ hour tour of the museum which in its self is quit a powerful experience. After the tour there was a discussion on the abuse of power by police agencies under the Nazi Ragime and occupied countries. The interesting part of the discussion was the fact we now know today that the participation of police agencies in cooperating with the Nazi regime contributed to the death of over 6 million Jews and others. However, did the police officials at that time see it as any more than their duty? Did many of them know what the fate of the people they where assisting in deporting or rounding up in the name of the Nazi regime? Did they merely feel they were doing their duty in ridding the state of the enemy within as the Nazi Regime depicted the Jews and other undesirables? Those of us who have studied the Holocaust have heard the defense of the perpetrators of it by saying “I was just doing my duty”. Was this true of the average “beat cop” in occupied France, or Hungary or other countries occupied by the Nazi Regime? Was the mindset of the German Police, while assisting the Nazis in the round up and deportation of German Jews just another duty among the calls for police services like auto accidents, assaults and theft and not genocide? These where all very interesting thoughts to pounder. What would have been my thought process had I been a Proud German Policeman in 1942? One thing is sure. When the police participate in the persecution of an entire people then they stop becoming the servant and protector of those same people and no one can hide behind I was doing my duty. Thank God that in this country the police officer is not only the enforcer of the law but the defender of the Constitution and the people it protects. I would encourage you all to visit the Holocaust Museum; it will give the phrase Never Again a whole new meaning.


3 responses to “My Day at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

  1. Thanks for this reflection – it certainly gives us all something to think about. I, too, found the time that I spent at the Holocaust Museum a powerful experience. It was quite a few years ago, but I still remember it very vividly.

  2. Thanks for this report, Matthew. Unfortunately, this is not just some old history story of “the bad old days” since Mein Kampf is an enormous best-seller in the Muslim world (including the moderate nations like Turkey) and even in muslim neighborhoods in western European cities.

    “Obviously we’re very concerned,” Ivo Molinas, one of Turkey’s 25,000 Jews, said in Istanbul. “This is a democratic country and the book can’t be banned, but it would be good if the Turkish government openly said they don’t like it being sold. Unfortunately, there has been no such approach.”

    Never again?

  3. In the last few months, I’ve participated on and off in a monthly anti-racism discussion that was based on a video series about apartheid in S. Africa and the peace and reconciliation process going on there. One of the interviews was with a white S. African police officer. He said that considered himself a good policeman by following through on orders to “terminate” black South Africans his officials commanded him to address, and he considered himself to go “above the call of duty” when he executed black citizens without the direct instruction from his superiors. It was a chilling interview that obviously stayed with me, and is likely one way we are all capable of justifying participation in unconscionable atrocities….Never again and Never forget go hand in hand.

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