11 March 2020

John Paul II Center fellow Bernadette McGonigle reflects on Yad Vashem visit

The John Paul II Center’s Russell Berrie Cohort XII traveled to Israel last month on a study tour, where they studied Judaism at the Shalom Hartman Institute, visited museums, and saw holy sites of all three monotheistic religions.

Below is a reflection by fellow Bernadette McGonigle of Ireland on the trip to Yad Vashem, the world Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem:


Words fail to give an accurate account of the Yad Vashem museum – the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. That is perhaps why the uniquely designed museum conveys its message through the use of multimedia from the entrance which shows footage of Jewish groups and individuals from so many different countries expressing their varied cultural backgrounds in song, music, dance and everyday life. The museum then takes you on a journey showing the slow but stealthy rise of anti-Semitism throughout Germany and Europe, dispossessing people of their rights and their property and isolating them from the general population – purely on the basis of being Jewish. The museum is both educational and also deeply personal – showing artifacts and photos of individuals; making them real to us. Towards the end of the museum, there are photos displayed of some of those who have died and a collection of the many pages of testimony given.

The genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people sought their entire annihilation. Despite claiming the lives of 6 million Jews in a short few years to 1945, the plan failed. Those who survived are determined to educate the world about the dangers of allowing the slow but steady display of anti-Semitism to remain unchallenged. The museum has established the International School for Holocaust Studies as one of many different educational vehicles. The message is important and we need to remember – not just a historical event but because we are witnessing a rise in anti-Semitism around Europe again.

The Museum generously acknowledges those they refer to as the Righteous among the Nations, the individuals who stood up and gave assistance. The depressing conclusion is that humanity is so capable of being inhumane to others – some examples include the Roma who have a long history of suffering persecution in Europe; the Armenian genocide; the devastating wars which continue to impose hardship and suffering on people in Yemen and Syria and so many more atrocities. The glimmer of hope is that we, as individuals, have a choice and can make a real difference. Like the Righteous among the Nations, we are each asked to stand up for what we know to be right and act on it. The choice is ours.