A Little Time and a Keyboard: The Illinois Holocaust Museum: An Important Journey

The Illinois Holocaust Museum: An Important Journey

Thursday, February 28, 2013

We are very lucky to live an area with many resources that aid our children (and ourselves) as we learn about life, the world, and our place in it. The Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie is one of these treasures. This month, we were given the opportunity to visit the Illinois Holocaust Museum to learn about the mission of the museum, gain more knowledge about the Holocaust, and see what our children will see when they visit. The Illinois Holocaust Museum has so much to offer that we have opted to discuss our visit in two posts. This post will focus on the main exhibit.

Be prepared to be moved as you visit the Museum. The main exhibit is extremely poignant and is appropriate for those 12-years-old and older. Through the main exhibit, you will follow a path that will wind you through the history of the Jewish people after WWI in Germany leading up to the Holocaust, through the Holocaust itself, and on to life after the Holocaust. There are many artifacts along the route which bring a reality to the Holocaust experience that can be sometimes lost if your knowledge is only garnered from textbooks.

Here is some of what we each took away from our visit to the Illinois Holocaust Museum:

Photograph by Jim Schnepf
Mel's take: When I learned that students from my daughter's school had visited the Illinois Holocaust Museum, I knew that I had to visit before my daughter did in order to  prepare for her questions. What I did not know was how much I would learn myself. The main exhibit really struck me in ways I did not expect. I was amazed by how the Museum used artifacts, videos, and special effects such as light and sound to impress upon visitors the stages of the Holocaust, life before, and life after. I teared up when I saw elements displaying how Holocaust victims still tried to have pieces of life during the Holocaust. Most of the exhibits were varying shades of black, gray, and white. However, I noted a red knit dress of a little girl who escaped to China and colorful drawings made by children--sparks of life amidst tragedy. 

The Museum light effects move from darkness as you move through the Holocaust to light when you reach the liberation and life after the Holocaust sections. As we move into the light, we bring life out of the Holocaust and the mission to not allow it to happen again. The light effects add poignancy to the exhibit.

I think that the main exhibit was beautifully done and could not have been put together any other way. The most striking part of the exhibit is when you enter a railcar from the Holocaust period, the same kind that was used to transport victims. At that time, you feel part of that history and the events seem to really unfold right before your eyes. The Museum really does its job of keeping the memory and reality of the Holocaust alive thus inspiring future generations to stop it from happening again.

Kat's take: The design of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center is well thought-out.  The dark/light division of the museum building (which is mirrored inside in the layout of the exhibit) is inspired.  Even approaching the museum from the parking lot, you are confronted with a foreboding edifice that resembles a concentration camp.

The journey begins on the dark side of the museum, in post-World War I Germany and Europe. The exhibit is laid out chronologically and - through artifacts, photos and footage - visitors are taken through the historical progression up to, and beyond, the Holocaust. I thought the museum excelled at taking information from history books and presenting it in a way that makes events seem vividly, horrifyingly real. One example is the multimedia used to show the how the countries in Europe fought Germany (and the attendant death tolls) ... you get a very clear picture of the war's progression.

The artifacts displayed and the testimony of survivors' voices are, for me, the most powerful components of the exhibit. A lot of what I saw is haunting and difficult - but necessary- to watch. The graphic nature of some of the imagery make the exhibit unsuitable for young children (the museum recommends 12 and above). The effect it had on me was visceral; witnessing the inhumanity millions suffered was like a punch to the gut.  Standing in an actual railcar from that era - the kind which was used to transport people to their deaths at concentration camps - is something I won't forget. Overall, it was a very moving experience. Everyone should visit this museum.

A visit to the Illinois Holocaust Museum is truly an emotional journey we all should take. All visitors will be moved and will take important lessons from the journey.

The Illinois Holocaust Museum is easily accessible for us in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. It is located at 9603 Woods Dr in Skokie, Illinois. The Museum is open weekdays 10AM-5PM (until 8PM on Thursdays). It is also open 11AM-4PM on weekends. Admission costs $12 per adult, $8 per senior (65+) and students (12-22). Admission for children 5-11 is $6. (Tomorrow, we will discuss exhibits more appropriate for the younger children.)

For more on the Illinois Holocaust Museum, please check our post on exhibits appropriate for younger children.

**Disclosure: The Illinois Holocaust Museum so graciously provided us with admission to the Museum so that we could show our readers this great treasure. We received no compensation for this post.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this and your experience. I also appreciate you including the age of 12 or above. I'd wondered if my daughter was ready, and think it may be worth waiting a year to make sure she can appreciate, process and handle the information and experience. How thoughtful to go in advance of your daughter's class - that's some awesome parenting.

    1. Yes, I thought that she would have questions and the best way to be prepared was for me to experience the Museum as well.

  2. I didn't realize that this museum was so close by. It looks like an emotional place to visit but a great experience too. I'll have to wait until my kids are a little older to take them there. Thank you for the information and your thoughts!

  3. “Congratulations Mel S! Thank you so much for taking the time to share this exciting information.”

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