The Jewish Museum, housed in the oldest temple in BiH, is a quiet, powerful time capsule. I have been excited to attend this museum because of my Jewish heritage. Unlike in many museums I’ve toured in the US, I was able to take pictures and feel a sense of connection with the artifacts. A few cases displayed the personal effects of influential Sarajevan Jews. Around the walls were many photographs of Jewish individuals or social groups. Floors one and two were interesting to me, and while I appreciated the history, my engagement was mostly intellectual. Then I arrived on the third floor, and read the beginning sign stating that the floor was dedicated to victims of the Holocaust. Okay, I thought, I’ve learned a fair amount about the Holocaust, this will be interesting, as well.
I looked at the large book hanging in the middle of the room titled “Dvanaest Hiljada Nastradalih,” Twelve Thousand Victims. A glance between the covers of the books showed the long list of names of those from BiH who died during the Holocaust. I looked at the camp uniform next to the book, and the armbands in another display. My ability to intellectualize gave way to grief, and I continued to wipe away tears as I walked around the room. This is one topic that will never be solely intellectual for me.
Upon arriving back at the hotel, I said to a classmate that this experience at the museum brought me back to the power of place. This trip is my first time overseas, and for all the information and books on the Holocaust that are available in the United States, there is not the presence of real artifacts. I really am here, in an entirely different location, where this part of history has a very different immediacy.