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June 11, 2009

Makeshift Memorials and Memory


by guest blogger Cara Finnegan

The U. S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. is closed today in the wake of the shooting yesterday that killed security guard Stephen T. Johns, who leaves behind a wife and young son. This photo captures well how layered collective memory can be: a poignant, makeshift memorial left at a place formally (and fiercely) dedicated to remembering the very worst effects of human hatred. The presence of security guards in the background only heightens the sense of tragedy and vulnerability.

After the shooting, Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a statement that said in part, "It is deeply disturbing that one of America's most powerful symbols of the memory of the Holocaust was selected as the site of the attack just days after President Obama accompanied Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel to the Buchenwald death camp." Indeed, it is hard not to wonder if the incredibly human, moving, and yes, empathic images of Obama and Wiesel were what set this guy off.

(image: TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

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