New international travelling exhibition on the history of Auschwitz
Since 1947, Poland has worked to preserve the authentic site and remains of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp as well as its history, making it accessible through the creation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and its exhibitions. Every year visitors from all around the world travel to Oświęcim to encounter the authentic site. In 2016, for the first time ever, more than 2 million people visited the Memorial.
Each Auschwitz survivor has a unique and individual story. Together with the Memorial, they somehow give voice to the 1.1 million people murdered by German Nazis at the camp; mainly Jews, but also Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war. It happened in the heart of Europe, in the womb of the most technologically advanced society of its time. Remembering and keeping this tragedy in mind is, therefore, an educational imperative.
For the first time, 72 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, a travelling exhibition dedicated to the camp and its historical meaning has been created. It will visit 14 cities around the world, 7 in Europe and 7 story in North America, bringing its history closer to millions of people.
The exhibition will display more than 600 original objects, most of them belonging to the Auschwitz Memorial Collections. Although objects have previously been loaned to various museums and institutions, this project represents an unprecedented collaboration to create an international travelling exhibition, displaying a large collection of objects within the narrative context of the camp’s history, including an original barrack from Auschwitz III-Monowitz.
The project also involves specific loans from various international institutions, such as Yad Vashem - The World Holocaust Remembrance Center (in Jerusalem), the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (in Washington DC) and different Holocaust centers in North America and Europe, as well as from survivors and private collections.
Among these items will also be an original German-made Model 2 freight wagon, of the type used by the Deutsche Reichsbahn (German National Railway) during World War II for the transport of soldiers, prisoners-of war, and for the deportation of Jews to the ghettos and extermination camps in occupied Poland.
These unique items will cover the main topics of the history of Auschwitz, as well as all the victim groups in the camp: Jews deported for extermination, Poles, Sinti and Roma and Soviet prisoners of war. In addition, some items will also depict the world of the perpetrators – SS men who created and operated the largest of the German Nazi camps.
“Not long ago. Not far away” will be the subtitle of the exhibition, as Auschwitz was part of modern history and the memory of Auschwitz is part of our modern world. Understanding how that place came to be, and what this means for our view of ourselves, is one of the core purposes of this project.
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Director, Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, stated that “today, the world is moving in uncertain directions. That is why we need to rely more and more on the strong foundations of our memory. Auschwitz and the tragedy of the Shoah are part of those foundations, which cannot be bypassed in creating a new face of the world.
“Nothing can replace a visit to the authentic site of the biggest crime of the twentieth century, but this exhibition, which people in many countries will have the opportunity to see, can become a great warning cry for us all against building the future on hatred, racism, anti-Semitism and bottomless contempt for another human being,” he added.
“The exhibition will offer an introspective journey across the very nature of mankind, experienced through the ‘dual’ history of the camp: Auschwitz as a physical location and Auschwitz as a symbol and metaphor for the borderless manifestation of human barbarity,” stated Luis Ferreiro (Musealia), Project Director for the exhibition.
“It will also place Auschwitz in its historical context, allowing visitors to understand the pre-war years of Polish Oświęcim, and the later German occupation and terror system they established,” he added.
The exhibition, conceived and designed by Musealia and its international curatorial team of experts lead by historian Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt, in an unprecedented collaboration with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, it’s curators, conservators, archivist and the Research Center headed by Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, will have its first stop in Madrid (Spain) by the end of the year.