The National Holocaust Museum, Washington D.C.

June 19, 2010

National Holocaust Museum

Propaganda was the most powerful tool that Hitler and the Nazi party used to manipulate not only the minds of Germans, but people world-wide.  How do you prophesize and convince millions of people that if a second world war was to break out, the Jews would be held responsible?  Hitler managed to coerce a generation, mostly the younger population, especially students, that the Jews were the enemy and that trusting in the Nazi party would propel them and their superior Aryan Germany into powerful world leaders.

Hitler provided government funded numerous programs that provided not only necessities, but sports and leisure activities beneficial to Nazi followers.  Promoting health and Nazi education, the Nazi party was able to strengthen their forces and move forward with Hitler’s plan to exterminate the “evil and dangerous” Jewish people.  Crowds of thousands gathered to hear Hitler speak and his power grew with the help of propaganda and political manipulation.  Jews were depicted as tyrants and it was much easier to accept that they were the cause of another world war as German wounds from the lash of punishment over World War I were still bleeding.  The Nazi party produced posters and films, gave speeches and lectures, and created an anti-somatic state that encouraged and pursued genocide.

The National Holocaust Museum highlights in one exhibit the influences of propaganda and how this particular historical aspect of Jewish persecution took hold in Europe from the years between 1939 and 1945.  Hitler was a master manipulator.  His and the Nazi party tactics succeeded in destroying the lives of thousands of European Jews through imprisonment in concentration camps, torture, and insurmountable death.  The fate of so many Jewish men, women, and children succumbed to the evils of the Nazi’s, led by the real tyrant, Hitler.  His propaganda against the Jews hid the truth and attempted to deceive an entire world.  Thousands were tortured, starved, and died before the horrific truth exposed Hitler and the Nazi’s as the monsters.  History reveals the propaganda tactics, but nothing can reverse the atrocities or recover the losses.


Washington D.C. at Twilight

Our first experience admiring the greatest capital city in the world took place at twilight.  Museums and tours would come later, but what an introduction!!

June 14: Women’s Rights, Abolition, the Erie Canal, and Ice-Cream!!!

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony blazed a path for women in this nation and across the world.  Women’s rights were not always protected in America.  “All men and women are created equal” was a fight, not a gift.  Today, women vote, own property, manage wealth, drive, and anything else they choose.  This was not always the case.  Women had to fight for their rights to do so, and it took a major battle.  Women would not vote in this “progressive” nation until the year 1920.  Ladies, that is but a mere 90 years ago.  My great-grandmother never had the opportunity to cast a ballot until her life was half over.  My own grandmother was 11 years old when women’s right to vote became a reality.  Unfortunately, Stanton and Anthony never lived to see the day when their fight gave women the right to elect those who served them.

The most interesting part of the day was the Underground Railroad information.  It was amazing to see the door to the basement of Seward’s home knowing that it was the entrance that fugitive slaves used to wind their way through the backwoods to freedom in New York.  As we quickly walked through the Harriet Tubman house, it was a thrill to know that it was the location where so many bound to the shackles of slavery from birth sought freedom, support, and help.  Harriet was an incredible woman and that was the real theme of the day…incredible women who changed history!

It was a whirlwind day, but filled with the most crucial period in women’s history.  The right to vote was only the beginning, but it sparked the flame for an ever-growing woman’s movement that is still necessary today.  It is 2o1o and men still make more money for doing many of the same jobs that women hold.  Discrimination based on sex is by no means eradicated and women continually face obstacles in places like the workplace, institutions of higher education, and even the home.  Domestic abuse and violence is still rampant, and now more than ever, the pressure women face to be breadwinners, nurturers, and homemakers is overwhelming at best.  We pay tribute to the foundation that women like Stanton and Anthony carefully placed and must look forward to the paths that we today blaze for our own daughters.  Thank you ladies for making history, one that has provided a voice.

The most enjoyable highlight of the day was most certainly the ride up the Erie Canal.  Passing through the lock was really a treat and the calm enjoyable weather along the quiet canal was a great opportunity for some much-needed serenity after over a week in bustling New York City.  As we made our way through the calm waters of the canal, it was fun to contemplate all of those who went before us, maybe pulled by mules, maybe carrying goods or hearts full of dreams and promise for a bright future.  As the ride neared completion, the worn and tired looks on the faces of our group began to fade and when everyone entered the ice-cream shop, it was clear that the day, long as it was, ended on a high note.  The perfect end to an inspirational day.

June 13: Take Me Out to the Ballgame and then Home to the Farm!

Today was an experience in American culture at its finest.  It all began in Cooperstown, NY at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  From the backyard ballgame to the major league, the Hall of Fame captures the essence of the game and its impact on a nation.  Americana at its best, the stories and tributes to the greatest ball players on earth.  Babe Ruth held not only the greatest records of his era, but the hopes and dreams of so many young boys who revered him as an American hero.  The Hall of Fame is a museum that pays  tribute to the greatest all-American sport, a sport that helped shape America.

George Herman “Babe” Ruth

Beyond the fanfare, the Hall of Fame possesses an amazing site filled with lesson plans and ideas for teaching by using baseball as the subject matter.  Economics, history, math, and physics all come alive when applied to the subject of baseball.  The economics lesson for example can cover a range of concepts from supply and demand, to consumer spending and cost ceilings.  How much will a family sacrifice to see the game? Socially speaking,  how has the rising cost to attend a game created more of an elite market, who has been excluded?  How has this impacted the sport?  It used to be that an average  family could attend major league ballgames on a fairly regular basis, but today, the cost to walk into major league stadiums is generally no less than round $30 per person and moves upwards from there.  How often will the average family of four spend $120 just to attend a baseball game?  What families are automatically priced out of attending the game?  The lesson possibilities are seemingly endless and the good thing?  They all hover around subject matter that lights kids up.

Not far from the Hall of Fame was the Farmer’s Market where there you can take a peek back to days gone by.  Designed like a functional 19th Century farm town, this visit is one enjoyable by “kids of all ages”.  Equipped with antique farm equipment, an inn, the community church, a schoolhouse, a printers office, the community doctor’s office, and a functional blacksmith’s shop, the experience is educational as well as entertaining.  But the excursion would be incomplete if you missed taking a ride on the carousel.

The carousel at the Farmer’s Market is probably one of the most unusual.  It is called the Empire State Carousel as it is a museum and history to the state of New York.  I counted only about 4 horses on the entire ride.  Most of the animals were unique, each representing a little bit of New York history.  The ride was collapsible so that it could travel from one venue to another which made it fairly remarkable given its detail.  Get on and take a ride and watch adults turn back to kids in an instant.  What a great experience to have done this with out entire group!!!

June 12: Theodore Roosevelt – Don’t Let the Teddy Bear Fool You, He Was A Man’s Man

The most interesting fact that I did not know about Teddy Roosevelt?  He hated being called Teddy.  After visiting his home, I can see why.  His home was absolutely beautiful, but every room was a testament to his devotion to hunting.  He was aggressive and that aspect of his personality was displayed throughout his home.  The rooms where T.R. was most comfortable were dark and subdued.  In every room were animal skins, heads, tusks, and birds.  In his entry way was his most prized water buffalo head.  The story goes, T.R. was on safari and this particular water buffalo charged him.  He shot and killed the animal and explained, if any animal had the tenacity to charge and attempt to kill him, that it deserved an honorable location in his home.  T.R. was no force to reckon with and his life as a public leader mirrors the same philosophy.

No worries guys, I didn’t break the rules, this came from an on-line brochure!

T.R. was a family man.  He loved his children and his devotion to his first wife was the stuff out of fairy tales.  Regardless of what he was doing, 4:00pm was his time with his children.  His wife explained that he was the biggest child in the household; riding horses, playing games, and rough-housing with his family.  He loved being home and being with his children.   T.R. did demand that his children be disciplined in academics and required that they read a book a day.  They would only be welcomed at the dinner table if they had discussion topics from their readings readily available for conversation.  They had to be on time and well-mannered during the dinner hour or they would be dismissed to eat with the servants in the kitchen.  While he was strict with regard to education, he was not overly bothered by naughty childhood behavior including the time his most mischievous son, brought a pony into the White House.  Some suggested that he was too lenient, but for T.R., childhood was intended to be enjoyed.  Family was intended to be cherished.

After having visited the FDR home and now, the T.R. home, it is interesting to compare the two Roosevelt families.  T.R. appeared to be much more in charge of his destiny.  FDR always looked  (or possibly succumbed) to the direction of his mother.  His relationship with his family did not appear to be as strong as T.R. had with his family.  Both men made their marks in their presidencies.  They each changed the face of politics one as a conservative and the latter as a liberal.  Each were trend setters, T.R. and his “Square Deal”, and FDR and his “New Deal”.  America is a changed nation thanks to the both of them.  Teddy seemed to make decisions more independently than did FDR, but in the end, FDR had a much more successful political run.  Both men are icons who shaped and forever molded American policy.  Compare and contrast is an excellent critical thinking exercise, this comparison would be a good one for the classroom.

June 11: New York Historical Society-Slavery and Cotton, Economics of the North?

“Totine Coffee House”, NYC 1797 – Oil on Linen

“We here in New York are great middlemen.”  Best statement of the trip.  Our instructor through the New York Historical Society made a great observation.  New York’s economy is  not based in production, the lions share of the money made in New York does not come from the creation of things,  but they do make one thing in the Big Apple – MONEY.  From its earliest conception, New York (then, New Amsterdam) realized its potential for prosperity largely in part due to it location on the one of the worlds most functional natural harbors.  Perfect for commerce, New York learned early that by providing a venue for industrial, agricultural, and even human commerce, large sums of money would be brought to the city, bringing with it prosperity that has become signature to New York .  Manhattan’s  economic success flourished as virtually no industry in the nation existed that did not have ties in some way New York.  The slave-labor dependent cotton industry of the South was no exception.

Cotton, one of the greatest commodities to hit the market became a staple to commerce during the 19th Century.  As America began to mechanize and mass produce textiles, the demand for cotton skyrocketed.  It is a labor-intensive crop that requires large amounts of manpower at all stages of production from growing, harvesting, to milling.  Even after Eli Whitney made separating the cotton from its pod a much less intensive process, the industry was constantly working to keep up with demand and maximize profits.  Slave-labor  was essential to the success of the industry from its earliest conception.  This dependence upon slave-labor intensified the slave market as well.  What does all of this Southern business have to do with New York?  Commerce.  New York facilitated the markets bringing together the people who produced cotton and the people who turned it into the textiles demanded by Americans and abroad.  New York also facilitated the slave-trade.  Eventually, as the moral debates over chattel slavery and human bondage heated up,  New York would disband the increasingly less-profitable slave exchange and  become a forerunner in the abolitionist movement to eradicate slavery.

The artifacts and lessons provided by the New York Historical Society outline this progression of economic growth in New York.  The cotton industry is only one example of New York’s rising to economic superiority.  The Historical Society, much like New York, provides a forum to facilitate , in this case learning as opposed to commerce.  The Society places great importance on education through discovery.  Rather than lecture the facts, the New York Historical Society education program puts emphasis on questioning, leading students to their own discovery of the meaning of the artifacts.  The paintings, furniture, tools, dishes, clothing, and sculptures tell the history.  Analyzation of objects leads to interpretation which allows students to create for themselves the true meaning of each object and where it fits into the broader history of the nation.  The process is rich in content and has a much better retention possibility than lecture alone.  The materials and lesson plans provide specific outlines and directions to help lead students to the answers and become more critical thinkers.  Excellent job New York Historical Society!!!  Thank you for the tools.

June 10: Ellis Island – A Tour through the Halls of Medicine

Walking into the great hall that welcomed thousands of immigrants to this country, it’s hard to imagine all that must have been running through their minds.  The majority had been traveling for weeks in steerage, and many of them were sick or simply didn’t feel good.  Everything was strange and new, the language was foreign and they were at the mercy of strangers.  It must have been frightening at the very least.  Processing through Ellis Island was only the first step in their new lives (assuming they weren’t sent back) and most likely one of the most frightening.

I knew that medical personnel were part of the processing at Ellis Island, but I did not know that the hospital facility was so large.  Immigrants could and were placed into hospital care if they were sick or needed surgery, etc.  The medical care that they received on Ellis Island was probably more advanced than they had ever experienced in their lives.  The doctors, nurses, and social workers provided services far beyond a one day checkpoint and the facility was designed to accommodate much more than basic medical exams.

As we walked through the now decaying walls (anticipating restoration soon), we learned that the entire facility was designed with the intent to stop the spread of germs.  The belief that the spread of germs could be avoided if ventilation was good and fresh air was readily available for healing, even if the air was cold, it was necessary to keep the rooms well ventilated.  The walls throughout the facility were not squared off in the corners, instead they were rounded.  The thought behind this was that germs would keep moving if there were no corners in which they could get caught.  The hospital had an arbor out in an open area where patients could be taken in order to get fresh air and take a moment away from the building for healing.  The facility was state of the art for the period and reminded me of the facility located at Steelworks Museum at Colorado Fuel and Iron.  The medical industry was improving, the importance of sanitary conditions and good ventilation were recognized.  The facility at Ellis Island in an impressive facility and fortunately, under restoration for generations to see.

On a side note, I decided to look up my family name, Leach.  There were a number of Leach’s from England but only one origin in Scotland where my family actually originated under the McDonald clan.  I found out that the name came from a doctor who actually practiced the procedure called leeching.  Essentially, they used leeches to drain blood out of patients.  With the quick switch from an e to an a, our family name was born, descended from a guy who played with gross bugs.