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Chamber of the Holocaust

The Chamber of the Holocaust was the the world’s first Holocaust memorial and is a powerful yet little known museum by Israelis and tourists alike.

It was built as a symbolic cemetery, as a place for Holocaust survivors to cry and mourn for their families, especially if they didn’t know where their loved ones were buried.

The memorial was established in 1949, four years after the end of World War II and a year after Israel was founded, as Holocaust survivors who came as refugees to the country sought a place to grieve.

Built in a Crusader dungeon, the chamber was a place for Holocaust survivors and victims’ descendants to light memorial candles, recite the Kaddish, remember, and mourn.

Located on Mount Zion and housed in the Diaspora Yeshiva, it was the closest an Israelis could get to the Old City and the Temple Mount prior to the 1967 Six Day War.

This was Israel’s main holocaust memorial until Yad Vashem was created five years later on Mount Herzl.

However, Yad Vashem is centered around remembrance, education, documentation and research.  

The Chamber of the Holocaust on the other hand, is a solemn place. It is meant to show the Holocaust for the “death and destruction” it was.

The museum features a large courtyard and ten exhibition rooms. 

The walls of the courtyard and several rooms and passages are covered with tombstone-like plaques inscribed in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English, memorializing more than 2,000 Jewish communities destroyed during the Holocaust.

The plaques were sponsored by survivors from those communities, and survivors held memorial services there on the anniversary of their town’s destruction.

In the middle of the museum, a large structure that resembles a tomb serves to represent the people killed in the Holocaust and never found.

Beneath is ashes found at  Oranienburg concentration camp were buried.

The objects, on display were donated by Holocaust survivors and victims’ families since late 1940s as a memorial to those who perished.

Many of the museum’s exhibits display religious artifacts such as a handwritten prayer book from the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Another is bloodstained Torah scroll which was used to wrap a rabbi who was stabbed to death.

Also on display are hats, shoe soles, purses, drums, wallets, and other items made by Nazis from parchments Torah scrolls to try to degrade and and desecrate Jews.

There is also a coat sewn from Torah parchments which was worn by a Nazi officer.

However, a Jewish tailor who created it used pages containing the 98 curses found in the Ki Tavo portion in the Torah. So as the soldier wore it, he was cursing himself.

In addition, there is a prisoner uniform from the Auschwitz concentration camp, a recreation of the gas oven used in the crematoria of concentration camps, and a container of Zyklon B, the pesticide used to kill Jews.

Most notable is “RIF” soap manufactured by the Nazis from human fat taken directly from the camps.

The museum also includes urns with the ashes of Holocaust victims from 36 Nazi death camps.

Located near Zion Gate and the City of David, visiting hours are Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 am to 4:30pm.

Admission is free, but donations are appreciated since the museum funded largely by private donations.

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