In the week leading up to this year's Holocaust Memorial Day, Chief Executive of Healthy Investment, Peter Green, reflects on his visit to the International Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.

It's almost three years since my wife, son and I visited Yad Vashem. Looking back through the photographs it's not difficult to remember the impact the visit had on us all.

The visit came towards the end of a two week self guided tour of the region when we really didn't believe our senses could take any more stimulation. For those who have not had the privilege, and I recognise that it is a privilege, to visit the area you cannot put into words how a visit affects you. The contrast between peace and chaos as you journey from the quiet contemplation of the Shepherds Fields in Bethlehem, through Checkpoint 100 on the way back to Jerusalem jolts you. The stillness of the Mount of Olives is broken by the joyous celebrations of families gathering at the Western Wall for bar mitzvah. Holy sites that speak of peace are patrolled by guns, there are so many guns.

The short bus ride from our hotel in New Jerusalem up the hillside was like many we had taken during the tour. Hot and crowded, a mix of shtreimel hats and young soliders.

On the outside Yad Vashem looks like many other modern art galleries and museums. The ultra modern architecture with stylish lines and airy skylights lulls you into a false sense of security, for as you wonder through the exhibits the full horror slowly starts to unfold.

It doesn't try and sanitise the horrific events of the holocaust and why should it? What it does do is personalise them and that's what makes the visit so impactful.

Those who died during the holocaust are not simply a statistic. They're not just numbers of six million. They are people who lived and loved, who had hobbies and interests and families and friends and it's in the telling of these details that the true horror of what happened is brought home.

Within the Hall of Names, over two million pages hold the stories of many of those who died. The high cone like ceiling has images of many of those who's stories are recorded. Not the pictures from the death camps that we are used to seeing, but snaps of happier times; weddings, family gatherings, life just happening to real people.

A visit to the Children's Memorial is truly harrowing. In the darkness lit candles are reflected on a series of angled mirrors creating the impression of 1 1/2 million stars; for that's how many children were killed. In the stillness you can hear the voices of children read out the names of the children who died. I'm sure this was far from the designer’s mind when constructing the memorial but I couldn't help but think of the fairground fun house where you're lost and all you can see in the mirrors is reflection upon reflection. That's what those children should have been doing, having fun, instead of enduring the horrors of what had become of their young lives.

I've often felt guilty likening the memorial to the fairground funhouse but I think it was the minds way of dealing with the reality of the horror that you are called to remember. A visit to the Children's Memorial is deeply upsetting and made more poignant for me by visiting and sharing the experience with one of my children.

As we wondered around the grounds trying to compose ourselves, we came across the memorial to those who were deported. The installation is an original German cattle car, like those used to transport millions of Jews across Europe. The truck is perched at the end of a broken railway line high on the hillside. It looks like it's about to roll of the end into oblivion but it has stopped just in time, teetering on the edge.


Not that long ago the world was teetering on the edge. It would not have taken much to send it over the edge and for it to be broken beyond repair. But it didn't and somehow the world managed to find the courage to put the brakes on.

It's hard to imagine that one man could have instigated a regime that tried to eliminate an entire race, as well as the disabled, homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses. Yad Vashem is a fitting memorial to the Jewish people who lost their lives in the Holocaust. It's not an easy visit but one that helped me understand the enormity of what occurred.

We can never, nor should we, forget.

Share This