"Auschwitz. Not so long ago. Not so far away." exhibition will open in Kansas City on 14 June
Kansas City will be the second location in the United States to present the exhibition "Auschwitz. Not so long ago. Not so far away." prepared by the Auschwitz Museum and the Spanish company Musealia.
The official opening of the exhibition at the Bank of America Gallery at the Union Station will take place on 14 June, which in Poland is the National Day of Remembrance for the Victims of German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camps.
"The exhibition will open on the 81st anniversary of the first transport of Poles to Auschwitz. It is very important. The exhibit previously presented in Madrid and New York shows the most difficult page in the book of human history," said Auschwitz Museum Director Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński.
"May this book teach us the correct and reasonable view, our own responsibility, the rational use of today's new forms of reaction because there is still too much antisemitism, racism, xenophobia. It is not a question about the world today. It is a question about us, about our possibility to react. The ability of each and every one of us," emphasized Piotr Cywiński.
"Union Station is Kansas City's visual voice and historic home. The exhibitions we host are vitally important in keeping our history and mission alive and our voice strong. Bringing 'Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away.' to our vast and diverse communities is one of the highest honors we can imagine," said George Guastello, Union Station President & CEO.
"Hundreds of thousands of American military passed through Union Station on the way to the two World Wars. After the wars, we were the scene of countless reunions. And, in fact, after WWII, we helped welcome Holocaust survivors to their new homes, right here in the Midwest. Indeed, ours is a history filled with humility and honor," he added.
"As June 14th - the day of opening this exhibition - approaches, we are so gratified at the tremendous interest already expressed from supporters and ticket buyers. After a five-year journey with the tremendous producers and partners to make this a reality in Kansas City, we are well on our way to seeing a record-setting attendance and, more importantly, bringing the powerful and important message of Auschwitz to people from all over the United States and across generations," George Guastello said.
"Auschwitz did not start with gas chambers. Hatred does not happen overnight; it builds up slowly among people. It does so with words and thoughts, with small everyday acts, with prejudices. When we had the vision to create the exhibition, we conceived its narrative as an opportunity to understand better how such a place could come to exist, and as a warning of where hatred can take us to. Therefore, it is of vital importance to remember the road that led to Auschwitz and the consequences it had," said Luis Ferreiro, the director of Musealia.
The exhibition traces the development of Nazi ideology and tells the transformation of an ordinary Polish town of Oświęcim where during the occupation, the German Nazis created the largest concentration camp and extermination center—at which ca. 1 million Jews, and tens of thousands of others, were murdered.
Victims included Polish political prisoners, Sinti and Roma, Soviet POWs, and other groups persecuted by Nazi ideology, such as: disabled, asocials, Jehovah's Witnesses or homosexuals. In addition, the exhibition contains artifacts that depict the world of the perpetrators—SS men who created and operated the largest of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camps.
On almost 2 thousand square meters the visitors of Union Station will be able to see hundreds of artifacts from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum including personal items—such as suitcases, eyeglasses, and shoes—that belonged to survivors and victims of Auschwitz. Other artifacts include concrete posts that were part of the fence of the Auschwitz camp; fragments of an original barrack for prisoners from the Auschwitz III-Monowitz camp; a desk and other possessions of the first and the longest serving Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss; a gas mask used by the SS; Pablo Picasso's Lithograph of Prisoner.
An original German-made Model 2 freight wagon used for the deportation of Jews to the ghettos and extermination camps in occupied Poland will be placed in front of the Union Station building.
"These are unique fragments of history that have been painstakingly preserved for future generations, and that will be now displayed for the first time in the Midwest. This stop at Union Station will also become the last chance to experience the exhibition in the US before it returns to Europe," said Luis Ferreiro.
"Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away" was curated by an international panel of experts, including world-renowned scholars Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt, Dr. Michael Berenbaum, and Paul Salmons, in an unprecedented collaboration with historians and curators at the Research Center at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, led by Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz.
The exhibition received the Grand Prix of the European Heritage Award / Europa Nostra 2020 Award, Europe's most prestigious heritage prize. The project also came second in the Public Choice Award.