United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Museum logo

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum ( USHMM , German  Holocaust Memorial Museum of the United States ) is a museum in federal hand in Washington, DC It is one of 22 Holocaust museums in the United States . It serves as a national memorial for the victims of the Holocaust , for its documentation and interpretation. Since it opened in 1993, it has been located on Raul-Wallenberg-Platz, named after Raoul Wallenberg , on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial .


The museum is based on a commission set up by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 ( President's Commission on the Holocaust , later: US Holocaust Memorial Commission ), whose first chairman was Elie Wiesel . The bill was passed unanimously by the US Congress in 1980 , together with the Days of Remembrance (Public Law 96-388). Public funding is also based on this resolution.

Concept dispute

With Jimmy Carter's initiative for the museum in 1978, a dispute over its concept began. It was triggered by his commission to design a national memorial for “the six million who were murdered in the Holocaust”: In doing so, he limited the term to the extermination of the Jews. As a result, representatives of various non-Jewish Nazi victim groups claimed an analogous victim status and inclusion in the museum concept. Carter expanded the definition of the Holocaust in 1979 to include "eleven million innocent victims, six million of whom were Jews." On the other hand, Elie Wiesel, who headed the founding commission at the time, emphasized the Nazi state's goal of exterminating all Jews as a peculiarity without analogy. He later summed it up with the often quoted sentence: “Not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims.” The founding commission appointed by Carter and made up of representatives of Jewish Nazi victims defined “Holocaust” in its museum design as “systematic, bureaucratic extermination of six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators as a central state act during the Second World War ”. That is why she demanded priority for the commemoration of this event, but not the exclusion of other groups of victims. The US government rejected this priority and avoided a clear definition of the term, but officially continued to use the term Holocaust as a synonym for the Nazi extermination of Jews.

Building design

In 1983, George HW Bush presented the first building design to the commission. The negotiations about the architectural design and the content (black Americans as well as Indians and revisionists saw their interests not taken into account) meant that it was only opened 14 years later, in April 1993, as a "public-private enterprise" . The building was constructed on public land by architect James Freed with $ 200 million from private donations. To this end, the Commission was given the historic Auditor's Building Complex in 1987 by the General Services Administration . Concerns from citizens and within the Commission prevented the originally planned complete demolition .


The exhibition rooms contain 26,000 authentic artifacts as well as numerous exhibitions and publications related to the Holocaust. The center of the building is a hexagonal hall of the previous building (now the "Hall of Remembrance" ). The starting point of the tour in the "Hall of Flags" is the flags of the various US divisions that were involved in the victory. The museum gathers and preserves evidence, distributes learning materials, and produces radio and television programs. There are annual commemorations.

The German Hygiene Museum in Dresden showed an exhibition of the Holocaust Memorial Museum: Deadly Medicine: Racial Mania under National Socialism from October 12, 2006 to June 24, 2007.


The museum is run by a 55-strong United States Holocaust Memorial Council , supplemented by 10 congressmen and three ex officio representatives from each of the Department of Education , the Interior and the State Department . The President of the Council is Fred S. Zeidman . In 2006, George W. Bush called the conservative columnist Dennis Prager to the council.

The museum has around 1.7 million visitors a year. Since it was founded in 1993, it has been visited by 23 million people, including 8 million school children.

With revenues of $ 70 million a year (of which $ 42 million in government grants; for comparison: British Museum $ 56 million; Louvre $ 118 million), it generated a surplus of $ 15.3 million in fiscal year 2005 . Compared to other museums that do not focus on a single ethnic group , the USHMM has substantial reserves in stocks ($ 63 million), mutual funds ($ 58 million), Israeli government bonds ($ 4.2 million) and other forms of investment. total of $ 147.5 million (2005). For consolidation, it is aiming for a capital stock of $ 300 million in the future.


On June 10, 2009, the 88-year-old right-wing extremist James von Brunn shot dead a security guard who had opened the door for him as he entered the building. Other guards returned fire and seriously injured Brunn. He died on June 6, 2010. According to investigators, he had planned the shooting in the museum as a suicide bombing for months to send the message to the Jews that the Holocaust was a hoax . He wanted to die as a martyr for his cause of Holocaust denial .


Since 1993 there has been the possibility for Austrian civil service conscripts to do a one-year memorial service at the USHMM . Also, Action Reconciliation Service for Peace sends annually to the Voluntary USHMM, as part of a peace service in the US.

Elie Wiesel Award

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has been presenting the Elie Wiesel Award since 2011 . It is given to people who are particularly committed to dealing with National Socialism , remembering the Holocaust and promoting the dignity of every human being. The award is engraved with a sentence from Wiesel's speech, which he gave in 1986 when he received the Nobel Peace Prize. The sentence is: One person of integrity can make a difference .

The following winners have been awarded since 2011:


  • Jeshajahu Weinberg, Rina Elieli: The Holocaust Museum in Washington . Rizzoli International, New York NY 1995, ISBN 0-8478-1906-X .
  • Edward Tabor Linenthal: Preserving memory: the struggle to create America's Holocaust Museum. Viking, 1995, ISBN 0670860670 .
  • Stefan Krankenhagen: Representing Auschwitz. Böhlau, Vienna 2001, ISBN 3412047015 (Chapter: The Americanization of the Holocaust , pp. 163–220; book excerpt online ).
  • Matthias Haß: Designed commemoration: Yad Vashem, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Topography of Terror Foundation. Campus Verlag, 2002, ISBN 3593371154 .
  • Katrin Pieper: The Musealization of the Holocaust. Böhlau, Vienna 2006, ISBN 341231305X .
  • Brenda Haugen, Harold Marcuse, Alexa Sandmann: The Holocaust Museum. Compass Point Books, 2007, ISBN 0756533570 .
  • Jan Eckel, Claudia Moisel: Universalization of the Holocaust? Culture of remembrance and history politics from an international perspective. Wallstein, 2008, ISBN 3835303104 .

Web links

Commons : United States Holocaust Memorial Museum  - Collection of pictures, videos, and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Jewish Virtual Library: Congressional Gold Medal Awarded to Elie Wiesel (April 19, 1985)
  2. ^ Katrin Pieper: Making the Holocaust a Museum. Böhlau, Vienna 2006, ISBN 341231305X , pp. 68-78 ( online excerpt ).
  3. Archived copy ( Memento of the original from December 21, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. USHMM news release dated September 6, 2006 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.ushmm.org
  4. Archived copy ( memento of the original from June 13, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.ushmm.org
  5. Washington Post, June 7, 2010: Von Brunn, white supremacist Holocaust museum shooter, dies
  6. ^ German Chancellor Merkel to Receive Museum's 2017 Elie Wiesel Award. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, March 23, 2017, accessed April 25, 2017 .
  7. ^ The Elie Wiesel Award. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, accessed April 25, 2017 .
  8. Aung San Suu Kyi loses human rights award

Coordinates: 38 ° 53 ′ 16 ″  N , 77 ° 2 ′ 1 ″  W.