A small group of students from campus joined Cultural Diversity Coordinator J.C. Moore Tuesday on a visit to the Museum of Tolerance in West Los Angeles in an effort to better understand both the motivations for the Holocaust and racism in general.
Whether one uses touch-screen Web pages, watches video footage of current hate leaders spouting rhetoric, or takes part in the interactive diner there are many tools of enlightenment spread throughout the “tolerance” level of the museum. The diner, for example, consists of watching a short film as a group and then asking questions of the characters via a jukebox like machine individually.
The museum also has an exhibit dedicated to explaining the beginning, duration, and end of the Holocaust. Upon entry, every person is given a plastic card that represents a child from the Holocaust. There are computers set up for the cards to be inserted before and after the exhibit. The computers before the exhibit give information about the child’s life. At the end of the exhibit the user finds out whether or not the child was killed and prints out a pamphlet about the fate of the. At the completion of the tour, there is an hour-long talk by a Holocaust survivor.
Rosita Ellis, a student and president of the Deaf Culture Club, was astonished by the conclusion of this trip. She said “I had never seen of this before. It made me very sad to see the people without food and being moved from train to train.”
After viewing the film footage, Ellis said, “It wasn’t right that [the Nazis] threw babies out the windows of hospitals.”
Ellis said that “more students should come” to the museum and that “maybe the Deaf Culture Club would plan a field trip here soon.”
A college interpreter for the deaf, Donna Scarfe said that it was “nothing new. I grew up with this. When I was in the 11th grade I did a double report on the Nuremberg trials and the Holocaust. This trip just added more to what I already knew.” Scarfe attributed the current racism in America to “the terrible tension we live under in a Democracy.”
One station of the exhibit dealt with the issue of hate speech and its consequences. As for banning hate speech, Scarfe felt that Constitutional guarantees of “free speech should not be altered,” but that “more people need to be aware of the consequences of what they say.” She also felt that “people need to be educated” about the possible effects of speech.
Jesus Perez, a member of the D.O.G. (Disabled On the Go) club on campus had some problems with the exhibit. “It was too confusing to follow [everything] with the [fast] moving lights and sounds.”
Perez was not too pleased with the room temperature either. “It was too cold.” However, he said that he “felt the experience [of the Holocaust] in a new way.” Overall, he was very glad that he came.
Moore agreed with Perez that the exhibit did have various distractions. “There were so many things that I didn’t have time to pay attention to everything, which is what I really wanted to do. They should couple a pre-orientation with the exhibit.”
She was deeply moved by what was on display in the museum. “It is the fear that is voiced through large numbers of people that is very disruptive. Failure is a convenient tool for blaming social ills on [a certain group of] people. How the Nazis could do what they did is beyond comprehension.”
The Museum of Tolerance is at 9786 W. Pico Blvd. in West Los Angeles. For information, call (310) 553-9036. Student tickets are $5.50.
The museum is a part of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization that fights racism and discrimination worldwide and presents lectures, films and workshops at its headquarters next door to the Museum of Tolerance.