January 27th is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day, all people are encouraged to remember and honor the 6 million Jewish people and millions of other people who lost their lives at the hands of the Nazi regime. We must remember so we do not forget and do not repeat this unimaginable horror.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a wonderful testament to the resilience and fighting spirit that keeps this story alive for future generations. It is a solemn and reverent place but also is a place you can bring your children to learn about the Holocaust in an age-appropriate way.
The museum is currently closed due to the pandemic but hopes to reopen soon. It has extensive online resources available for use, including a virtual field trip and videos to watch with your older children.
When the museum does reopen, a visit to its building located near the National Mall is a must for any trip to Washington, DC. Due to its popularity, especially during the spring and summer months, be sure to reserve your tickets before your visit. The main permanent exhibit, The Holocaust, takes up three floors and is haunting, especially the Tower of Faces.
The museum has thousands of artifacts on display, all of which tell the heartbreaking and horrifying story of the Holocaust, from how it began to its brutal end. The use of personal narratives and items is especially touching. I recommend this exhibit for children ages 11 and up (middle school and older). I took my younger son when he was 10 years old, and we had to power through quickly to avoid some of the more upsetting photos and exhibits. It’s best suited for older children who can understand the complexity and enormity of what they’re reading and seeing.
Younger children are welcomed at the children’s exhibit, located on the main floor. In fact, I highly recommend that children ages 8 and up visit this exhibit to learn more about the Holocaust and its effect on children. Remember the Children: Daniel’s Story tells the story of the Holocaust through one boy’s experience growing up in Nazi Germany.
You’ll walk with your children through Daniel’s home, city streets with broken windows from Kristallnacht, the ghetto, and finally a concentration camp. All throughout the exhibit are Daniel’s own words, taken from real diaries, letters, and photo albums of the era. Be sure to watch the video before going with your children. It provides a good way for children to understand and relate to the horrors of the Holocaust.
Other exhibits can be found on the main floor near the back of the building. The exhibit about what Americans knew and the news they received during the Holocaust is especially important.
The museum is a living memorial, which means that it’s meant to be an inspirational and educational place for all to learn about how fragile freedom truly is. It hosts still-living survivors of the Holocaust to put a human element on the history you see. While we were visiting several years ago, we were able to meet two Holocaust survivors in person, which imade a huge impact on my children.
After the US Holocaust Memorial Museum reopens, I highly encourage you to make it a part of a trip to Washington, DC. It’s important that we learn and that our children learn about this terrible part of human history so it is never forgotten and never, ever repeated.
- Cost: tickets are free but there is a $1 transaction fee
- Recommended: ages 8 and up for children’s exhibit; 12 and up for permanent exhibit
- Tour time: 1-2 hours
- Gift shop located onsite
- Transportation: The site is easily accessible from the Metro (Smithsonian stop on the Orange, Blue, and Silver lines). Traffic is notoriously bad in this area of town but there is a parking garage located across the street.
- Dining options: The museum has its own cafe. You are near the National Mall where there are many food trucks as well. A short cab ride away is the District Wharf area with lots of restaurants and shops.
- Nearby hotels: The closest hotel is the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The District Wharf area has several hotels as well. I personally recommend The Intercontinental.
- Nearby attractions include: Bureau of Engraving and Printing, National Mall, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Books to Read: There are many books written about the Holocaust, and I’ve listed some of my favorites or best-known below. See a more extensive list compiled by the museum here.
All links are Amazon affiliate links.
- 14 and up:
- 10 and up:
- 6 and up: