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Shooting in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC

Shooting in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC
Connie Lawn’s 4th Kiwi Blog – June 17, 2009


From Connie Lawn in Washington DC

A lone gunman burst into the Holocaust Memorial Museum in the heart of the nation’s capitol. James Von Braun, 88 years old, professed a hatred for Jews and blacks. He killed one security guard, and was then shot by other guards. He walked in with a rifle, and began shooting as soon as he crossed through the doors. His rants are published on a hate filled website.

Thousands of visitors were in the Museum at the time, and were already quite emotional from viewing the graphic exhibits. They hit the ground and tried to shelter loved ones during the brief gun battle.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum is one of the most popular, yet painful, museums in the United States. It is a learning institution about the rise of the Nazis and the horrors of the Hitler era. Millions of people have visited it over the years, along with 85 heads of state. About 6 million Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and mentally disabled people were exterminated by the Nazis. Millions more died throughout Europe and Asia in the Second World War.

There is a New Zealand flag on display in the Museum, along with those of many other countries. They represent the nations whose soldiers took part in the liberation of some of the Nazi concentration camps. New Zealand officials braved the bitter cold, during ceremonies when the museum was officially opened in 1993.

No one can know what triggered an attack at this time. But, President Obama’s recent visit to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, in Germany, may have set off the shooter. The Holocaust Museum may increase its security, although most buildings in Washington have several guards and weapons detectors. It is hoped this will prove to be an isolated incident.

Since the shooting there has been an increase in some hate mail traffic on the internet. But, there has also been an upsurge of visitors to the Holocaust Museum. Several thousand visitors line up each day, in defiance of the haters. One son of Von Braun says he wishes his father had died. He said, his anti Semitic and anti Black views made his own life hell. But the Mother of the slain guard says she forgives the shooter, and hopes his son can do the same. The 39 year old guard, Stephen T. Johns, has become a hero. A scholarship foundation has been established for his wife and his young son.

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Connie Lawn has a passionate love for NZ. She worked for Radio New Zealand for 20 years, and then for Radio Live for a few years. Connie has covered the White House and the world since 1968. Her other passion is skiing, and she calls herself "the skiing White House reporter." Her ski stories are on dcski.com and other outlets. Connie is also heard on thousands of radio stations, but firmly believes the internet is the future. She can be reached at connie@scoop.co.nz

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