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Holocaust Memorial

January 09, 1994

That Kenneth Turan included the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance in his story ("Viewing the Unthinkable," Dec. 12) is understandable. It allowed him to point out why he favors the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

But Los Angeles has yet another Holocaust museum: The Martyrs Memorial and Holocaust Museum in the Jewish Federation Council community building. Small in comparison to the others, it tells the Holocaust story most effectively, and ties it to Jewish life in Europe and world history.

Nor does it, as a Holocaust museum, dare translate "House of the Holocaust" into a "Museum of Tolerance."


Board of Governors,

Jewish Federation Council

Kenneth Turan's curiously incurious reportage recalled my strong misgivings about the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, that have troubled me since my visit there in August. . . .

Despite telling moments, the museum . . . insidiously camouflages, trivializes, even glamorizes the consummate evil we call the Holocaust. . . .

As I followed the designers' route through the exhibits, a sense of accumulating falseness was only relieved by the occasional line of poetry or prose, image or unadorned artifact whose presences resonated with authenticity. It came as a relief to reach the building's handsomely simple memorial rotunda, away from the exhibits' slick, patronizing artifice.

I believe the museum fails both in its pervasive distortion and in hubristically attempting what cannot be done--monumental chutzpah, Allan Dershowitz might say.

While for some the Holocaust Museum may accomplish a necessary good, I believe that its facile theatrics ultimately insulate viewers from the significance of the aggregate acts of individual will which are the museum's putative subject. . . .



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