I hadn't really cared--my family, incredibly, escaped those horrors--but my friend insisted we go. We waited for hours outside the museum along with hundreds of survivors who had been invited to be its first witnesses. I felt like an imposter, an empathetic outsider trying to understand but always able, unlike these other people, to walk away when I did.
Once inside, I learned that knowing history is not the same as feeling it. The low white rooms and dark, towering galleries of the museum began to seem, after a while, like places of crushing waves of death and hope, following so quickly after each other that I became dizzy. I pretended to be cool and collected until we reached one small room, empty except for a glass case inside of which lay torn fragments of white parchment. The scroll was folded over and over itself like a long ribbon of road crumpled in spots by little earthquakes, the letters shattered and slivered. Above the case was a photo of the broken, blackened town where this Sefer Torah once lived.
(To be continued.)