5 Prisons for Law-Abiding Citizens

visit prison - Eastern State Penitentiary
Flickr, Celine Aussourd

In this lull between fun summer TV like “True Blood” and the fall premieres of network television shows, many people have been binge watching the Netflix comedy, “Orange is the New Black.” Set at a women’s prison in Rockland County, New York, the series has generated new interest in jail. (From the outside, at least.) Here are five notable prison museums around the world with flexible visiting hours for an easy escape.

Alcatraz, San Francisco, CA
Built as an “inescapable” prison on an island off San Francisco, Alcatraz has had quite a few famous inmates, including Al Capone. The federal prison was closed in 1963 and has been a museum for several decades. In addition to the prison museum, it also has the country’s oldest lighthouse and a permanent exhibition on the historic Native American occupation. Tickets are a steep $30 and up per adult, but they include transportation, since you can’t make it off “the Rock” alive.Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA
Another stop on Al Capone’s “jail tour,” this Center City Philadelphia jail has been the set for several films including “Twelve Monkeys” and the Transformers sequel, and many TV shows about ghosts and jails. The self-guided audio tour (narrated by Steve Buscemi!) details the history of the prison, active from 1829 to 1969. Regular tickets are $14, and look out for special events; the Halloween Haunted House is especially popular.

Gestapo Headquarters and Pawiak Prison, Warsaw, Poland
Telling another part of the Holocaust, these two related historical sites in Warsaw show what it was like to be interrogated and imprisoned in the gruesome Nazi occupation. Part of the Polish city’s excellent collection of museums, they are free to visit and well-maintained, though very somber.

Robben Island, Cape Town, South Africa
The isolation of the small island near Cape Town made it a fitting site for a leper colony, a military training station and a place for political prisoners. Nelson Mandela was the most famous of former inmates for 18 years; he was one of dozens imprisoned during apartheid. Tickets are about $22, including ferry transportation to and from the mainland, a bus tour of the island and “interaction” with a former prisoner. President Obama visited the island and museum this summer, and was “deeply humbled” by the experience.

Tuel Sleng, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The secret prison of Pol Pot, dictator of Cambodia in the 1970s and leader of the Khmer Rouge, Tuel Sleng is now a museum cataloging the genocide perpetrated there. The museum contains the 6,000 detailed photographs and records of inmates left by prison staff, though as many as 30,000 were said to have been detained, tortured and murdered there. The museum is preserved as it was found in 1979, and is an important site, along with the “Killing Fields,” documenting and memorializing the victims of this dark regime.

Would you visit a prison?

Exhibition Examines Role Of Scientists And Doctors In Holocaust

Holocaust, eugenics
This is a poster for the Nazi eugenics program. Printed in 1936, it proclaims, “We are not alone.” The column on the left shows the countries that already had forced sterilization for certain “social undesirables.” The columns on the bottom and right show countries considering eugenics programs.

Note the American flag on the left. Various U.S. states practiced compulsory sterilization as early as 1907, when Indiana instituted sterilization of “confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles, and rapists.” The law was overturned in 1921, only to be replaced in 1927 with a law requiring sterilization of the “Insane, feeble minded or epileptic.” That law stayed on the books until 1974. Many states had similar laws and this “social cleansing” program heavily influenced the Nazis.

The Nazis instituted their Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring in 1933, the same year Hitler came to power. Many scientists and doctors were quick to jump onto the Nazi bandwagon and began “studies” to prove how the Germanic peoples were superior to all other races. This gave a scholarly stamp of approval to the forced sterilization, and eventual killing, of millions of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, and physically and mentally disabled.

This unseemly link between science and the Holocaust is being examined in a new exhibition at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. “Deadly Medicine: Creating The Master Race” brings together posters, leaflets and photos of scientific examinations to show how the scientific community became complicit in the greatest crime of the 20th century.

It also shows how these ideas were sold to the German people. One picture in a high school textbook shows a German man bent under the weight of an alcoholic and a brutish-looking man, perhaps meant to portray a mentally disabled person, with the caption, “You are sharing the load! A hereditarily ill person costs 50,000 Reichsmarks on average up to the age of sixty.”

“Deadly Medicine: Creating The Master Race” runs until October 15, 2012.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Suspects Held In Holocaust Memorial Desecration

Holocaust
Two weeks ago we reported that the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem was vandalized. Now Israeli police have detained three men in connection with the crime.

All three are ultra-Orthodox Jews and have confessed, police said.

The front of Yad Vashem was covered in Hebrew graffiti, including slogans such as, “Thanks Hitler for the wonderful Holocaust you organized for us. Only thanks to you we got a state from the UN.”

Some members of the ultra-Orthodox community don’t recognize the state of Israel, saying it shouldn’t exist until the coming of the Messiah. The BBC reports that some radicals even believe that Hitler and top Zionists plotted to create the Holocaust so that the Jews could create Israel, which has got to be the dumbest conspiracy theory we’ve ever come across, and that’s saying something.

The defacement was signed, “world ultra-Orthodox Jewry.”

The men are due to appear in court today.

Photo courtesy USHMM/Belarusian State Archive of Documentary Film and Photography. Click link to read the names of these children.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews Suspected Of Vandalizing Jerusalem Holocaust Memorial

Ultra-Orthodox Jews

Israeli police suspect ultra-Orthodox Jews are behind Monday’s vandalism at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.

Anti-Zionist graffiti written in Hebrew was sprayed over several parts of the building, with lines like, “Jews, wake up, the evil Zionist regime doesn’t protect us, it jeopardizes us,” and, “If Hitler hadn’t existed, the Zionists would have invented him.”

As implausible as this sounds, many ultra-Orthodox Jews believe that Israel shouldn’t exist until the coming of the Messiah. I myself know one family that subscribes to this belief, although being decent human beings they would never vandalize a Holocaust Memorial.

This is only the latest in a string of controversial incidents involving Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community. Recently vandals seriously damaged a 1,600-year-old mosaic from a synagogue. The Tiberias mosaic was one of the finest examples of Jewish art. Vandals broke into the museum and smashed parts of the mosaic, while spray painting slogans in Hebrew calling archaeological excavations a sacrilege.

Last year the country was stunned by the news that Ultra-Orthodox Jews had spat on an 8-year-old Jewish girl and called her a whore for not dressing modestly enough. Another group have been picketing a girls school they think is immodest and throwing feces and rocks at the kids. Back in 1990, some fellow archaeologists and I had rocks thrown at our vehicle because we drove through an Orthodox neighborhood on the Sabbath. Travelers beware.

[Photo credit: Getty images]

Never forget: Holocaust museums and memorials around the world


Never forget: Holocaust museums and memorials around the world


Here at Gadling, our goal is to introduce readers to travel ideas that are relevant. While we strive to find the new and the cool, we realize that some journeys must occasionally lead us to confront difficult episodes in our past, whether on a personal or global scale.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, designated by the United Nations in 2005 to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on January 27, 1945. As we get further away from the Nazi atrocities of World War II and as we lose more Holocaust survivors to old age, a day to commemorate the Holocaust becomes ever more important.

During college, as I was considering a career as a Holocaust historian, I interned as a research assistant at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC, one of the most comprehensive collections of Holocaust artifacts and documents in the entire world. My job was to transcribe video testimonies from Holocaust survivors, in particular men and women who had lived in the Jewish ghettos of Warsaw, Riga, and Vilnius. Watching those films and, indeed, encountering documents, photos, and memorabilia from the Holocaust on a daily basis brought home to me the significance of the mission of the USHMM and other Holocaust museums throughout the world.

While the best way to fully understand the magnitude of the Holocaust is to visit Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Sachsenhausen, or any of the other concentration camps in Central and Eastern Europe, museums and memorials in numerous cities and countries around the world serve to educate young and old and ensure that we never forget those who perished or the ones who lived to tell their stories. Take some time to reflect on this Holocaust Remembrance Day with this gallery of some of the world’s most renowned Holocaust museums and memorials.

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Photo: USHMM