Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Dark and the Light

This week, I visited Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.  Not to be confused with Museum of Tolerance (the educational unit of the Simon Wiesenthal Center located in West L.A.), Museum of the Holocaust is situated within Pan Pacific Park in the mid-city area of L.A.  It is reportedly the oldest Holocaust museum in the United States, yet I was clueless to the museum's existence, as well as that of Pan Pacific Park, prior to a couple weeks ago.
I arranged to meet my friend, RHS, at the museum, and we arrived as it opened.  The staff are courteous and offered us (without charge) the use of iPod Touch audio guides with accompanying headsets, necessary since all recorded presentations throughout the museum--including at the pc stations where one can listen to personal accounts from Holocaust survivors--are only audible via headsets.
The iPod guide also has a layout of the museum, which is planned to methodically guide the visitor through the historical timelines detailed in the exhibition. 
As we made our way through the hall, we were presented with historical excerpts, photos, and many authentic artifacts from Holocaust victims.  There are also Nazi artifacts on display.
Among the more interesting fixtures are the American newspaper imprints from the 1930s and 1940s which highlight reports hinting at the growing Nazi movement in Europe and the ever increasing social injustices towards certain classes of German citizens.  They are chilling portents of the greater atrocities to come.
The museum is not large, but it's very informative.  We took our time examining each informational panel, listening to different voices narrate passages and provide background to the images.  The photographs are moving and evocative and in many cases, frank and raw in their uncensored testimony.
The museum exterior is also impressive.  At the rear of the building, tall stone pillars commemorate the Holocaust.  Each pillar is marked by a key year and a short synopsis of that date's significance. 
Additionally, there are inscriptions etched into concrete walls, walkways, plaques, and benches which commemorate people and places of significance from the Holocaust.  Most noteworthy are inscriptions remembering and honoring victims on the exterior museum walls.
wall of remembrance
In total, we spent close to two hours at the museum.  We both found the museum's message to be very well presented.  The entire museum complex is a thoughtful, evocative monument to the Holocaust, and the exhibition and the museum layout create an unhurried, private experience for the visitor.

When we finally departed the museum, we drove over to West Hollywood for lunch.  My guidebook directed us to a couple of prospects on Melrose Avenue, and we finally settled for M Cafe de Chaya, an eatery that specializes in "contemporary macrobiotic cuisine."  The food was exceptionally good, fresh and flavorful and much better than I expected.  The cafe is a great find.
hummus&falafel wrap w/ side of kickass kale salad, sweet potato fries, and chopped salad
After lunch, I commented to RHS that we needed to end our day with something frivolous to counter the seriousness of the morning's excursion, so without telling her where we were headed, I made my way over to Whimsic Alley, the shop for all your wizardly needs.
RHS was surprised and delighted when she saw the theme of the store.  It was also my first time visiting Whimsic Alley, though I'd heard about it years ago and always meant to check it out.  I'm tickled I did--it's a pretty awesome place. 
RHS w/ quidditch player & Hermione
I banged my muggle head a few times trying to run thru the wall.
RHS and I are Harry Potter fans so it was fun to walk through the store and check out the cool merchandise.  The entire store is modeled after Diagon Alley, and the interior is sectioned off to mimic the shops in the fictional neighborhood, e.g. a broomstick store, a witch's accessory store, a wand store, etc.
potion store
Every witch must accessorize!
Which wand will choose me?
There is also a party room at the back of the store which one can rent.  There was a birthday party in full swing when we visited so we heard shrieking kids, and I spotted a Harry Potter lookalike roaming the place.  The atmosphere was very festive.  I was very amused.
We hung out at Whimsic Alley for about a half hour and then left to get back to Pan Pacific Park where RHS had parked her car.  Thankfully, I am not a hoarder of memorabilia so I was able to leave the store without purchasing anything.  RHS likewise didn't purchase anything, but no doubt she was planning out future birthday and Christmas presents for certain relatives.

It was an interesting day.  I'm glad to have discovered and visited Museum of the Holocaust.  I am curious to know how it differs or compares to Museum of Tolerance which I visited as a young student but about which I have no clear memory beyond that of the Holocaust survivor my class and I met that day who spoke hauntingly about her experience.  I'll be sure to visit Museum of Tolerance in the near future so that I can find out.


  1. I wonder if that is related to Chaya in Venice. I have been to neither museum. I find it is difficult for me sometimes, because I had years of learning about the Holocaust at religious school. But as was repeated often, we need to remember our history and not ignore it, so it cannot be denied.

    And I'm very sad that you didn't buy me any butter beer.

  2. I'll buy you butterbeer when you're in town; trying to ship glass bottles full of pressurized, fizzy liquid is only asking for trouble.