|Web Magazine Online|
|By Christie Lafranchi|
Challenging My Views about Tolerance
I am a tolerant person. I am an unprejudiced person. These are the attitudes that I brought in with me on my visit to the Museum of Tolerance. However, before I had even entered the actual exhibit, many of my previously held thoughts and ideas on my views and the world were challenged. From the short video, I suddenly realized how insidious racism can be. The doors marked "Prejudiced" and "Unprejudiced" presented a dilemma that took at least five minutes of debate to solve. Finally I decided that I must have some preconceived notions, even if I wasn't aware of them, and chose the door marked "Prejudiced." All of this, and I hadn't even entered the exhibit.
My main focus in this visit was on the section devoted to the Holocaust. I was very nervous about viewing this part because having seen the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., I knew how emotional and intense the subject could be. Before I entered the Holocaust section though, I saw two rooms devoted to the subject of tolerance. The interactive exhibits in this room taught me a lot about things that I had never really questioned before. The interactive video on the L.A. Riots was where I spent the most time. When thinking about the riots, it's easy to view it as random, mob violence, brought about by unjust circumstances, but still mob violence. By dividing the subject into sections which used actual people involved to tell the story, I gained a new understanding. I found the section about the people who rescued others from the violence to be the most interesting. Suddenly, the violence went beyond my previously held ideas and I began to see more the "full humanity" of the subject matter.
When the doors to the Holocaust exhibit finally opened, I knew that what I was about to see was not going to be easy. The exhibit also held some personal significance for me. My great grandfather was a Hungarian Jew. he was the first of his family to come to America. As Hungary had the third highest losses of its Jewish population, I can only assume that an entire branch of my family was wiped out.
I felt that the amount of time devoted to the events leading up to the Holocaust was necessary. It's important to understand how such an atrocity could occur. Because the Holocaust was such a huge tragedy, the potential to look at it as an isolated event, some atrocity from the past, is always there. The exhibit drove home the point that something like that can happen anywhere, at any time, even in a "civilized" country in Western Europe.
As I went alone, I had the time to focus on what I wanted and as much time as I wanted. However, this also made things affect me more than they possible would have if I had been with a friend. The solitude affected me most when I walked through the brick tunnel marked "Able bodied," sat down and realized I was in a gas chamber. Was this where my relatives ended their lives? Did a room like this and Zyclon B wipe out the entire Weiss family in Hungary? I felt cold, scared and alone as I watched the video.
(Christie Lafranchi is a junior majoring in Anthropology.)