Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum
Established in 1953, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority emerged as part of a law that created a new institution—called Yad Vashem, meaning “a place and a name”—committed to the study and commemoration of the Holocaust. Today, a four-acre site on Mount Herzl in western Jerusalem is home to a complex of Yad Vashem memorials designed by Safdie: the Children’s Holocaust Memorial, the Memorial to the Deportees, and the Holocaust History Museum. The first two are small structures located to the east and west, respectively, of the prismatic central museum. Replacing the original building from 1957, the Holocaust History Museum includes a new reception building (Mevoah), a Hall of Names, a synagogue, galleries for Holocaust art, an exhibitions pavilion, and a learning and visual center. In addition there are underground parking and facilities for tour buses adjacent to a new entrance piazza. The overall program quadruples the permanent exhibition space.
The three memorials weave together to resonate and reinforce each other as devices of memory, particularly though their manipulation of light. In the Children’s Memorial, a single candle is reflected in multiple mirrors to give the impression of infinite space; in the central museum, the main exhibit galleries are below-grade and lit from above, creating a path that leads visitors from light to darkness and back to light. Within this path, shallow angular trenches in the floor filled with artifacts and other
documentary material direct visitors from gallery to gallery. As visitors leave the museum, the tunnel’s walls open onto
a panoramic view of a sunlit Israel, metaphorically linking the Holocaust to the country’s founding.