Trailers are marketing tools, and the Holocaust needs no PR machine behind it. However, realizing that to be purely didactic would limit its message's stickiness, the Museum of Tolerance uses propaganda against propaganda to explore the atrocities of genocide and its antecedents.
Before reaching the Holocaust exhibit, visitors meander through the Tolerancenter which examines the daily racism leading to heart-palpitations when certain minorities approach you on the sidewalk. In a recreated 1950's diner, the menu is controversial topics, and visitors vote their opinions that are tabulated and projected, anonymously, for everyone to see.
Further along from the Point of View Diner is “Ain't You Gotta Right?” where a dozen-plus screens converge with a single image of Martin Luther King, Jr. then fragment to archival footage and interviews on the civil right movement in America.
The Holocaust Exhibit is likewise as didactic and harrowing. A re-creation of another dining scene – this time a café in 1930's pre-war Berlin – shows lively mannequins talking about the impending Nazi regime. While it would be easy for the Museum to reproach all of Germany, the scene explores the complex issues that lead to the extermination of Jews, gypsies, gays and anyone else deemed unfit by Der Fuhrer.
This is juxtaposed against a re-creation of The Wannsee Conference. Through a series of mirrors we eavesdrop on Nazi leaders deciding “the Final Solution of the Jewish question” over tea and biscuits.
Almost unbearable to this point, visitors take a respite … inside a recreated gas chamber while mournful Jewish prayers waft from unseen speakers. The experience of the Museum of Tolerance will linger much longer than a mere night.
Museum of Tolerance is located at Simon Wiesenthal Plaza, 9786 W. Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 553-8403 or visit www.museumoftolerance.com.