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  • This is the beginning of a quote that graces the entrance wall of the Bełżec Memorial and Museum. The full quote reads:
    "Earth do not cover my blood,
    Let there be no resting
    place for my outcry!"
    Job 16:18
    The memorial and museum at the site of the Nazi extermination camp ensures just that. The museum of Bełżec has done an amazing job piecing together the scraps of information they had gathered from the few survivors of the camp. In doing so, they have created within a small space an exhibit that is rich with artifacts, documents, and a wide range of media that the visitors are able to interact with for a better understanding of the camp's multi-faceted history. Video testimonies and large metal books with SS documents from the camp inscribed on them are displayed throughout the exhibit for visitors to view. Detailed plaques with information adorn the walls and pictures of families deported to the death camp sway delicately above the visitor's heads as they walk through the museum. Each piece included evoking the emotion presented within the quote above. An assurance to never forget and to preserve the memory of the victims that perished there.

    The 'meditation room' is the culminating point at the end of the museum for visitors to take a moment of silence and pay respect to the perished victims of Bełżec. It provides a space for contemplation and solititude amongst a place where neither were once allowed to exist. The picture above from my fellow student Dylan Meyer displays this room. The temperature was cold and shading almost pitch black with a tinted yellow light sweeping across the middle of the room; giving way to elongated shadows preceding each visitor. Each footstep and sound echoed throughout the desolate room. It almost felt as if it was enforced silence similar to the feelings evoked from the Road of Homage at Majdanek. The presence of being in the room may also be alluded to being in a gas chamber. Dark, enclosed, cold and ornamented with metal walls. Even though the artist contradicts this as an inspiration, it is hard to not feel as if you are confined in one. I personally felt very alone and sought out other students to walk through with me. Humans need company and seek it out when in a state of dismay. I kept thinking of the gas chambers we had previously seen and never wanted to attribute being in the room to being in a gas chamber. I found that to be the ultimate insult to the victims' memory. No one can imagine their pain unless they experienced the same nightmare they perished in. To even try to attempt imagining it is fatuous and disparaging. Therefore, I believe this room could have been constructed very differently and still achieve the main goal of a meditation space for the visitor. Then again, I wonder if it is even appropriate to have a meditation room in a place such as Bełżec. How can one find a place of rest and solace in a place that was home to death? Why do I have a right to go in a room and meditate as a living Jewish girl, in a place where Jews were immediately exterminated? I believe it is appropriate to contemplate and study the information in the museum and memorial; but to sit and meditate? I think this is very wrong. The artist is on the right track but I believe that there is improvement that can be made in upholding the memory of the victims properly.
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