Retelling the Horrors of Auschwitz at a Museum in New York

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“Auschwitz” takes up 40 rooms on three floors of the museum, replacing the museum’s permanent collection.

A wall from a barracks where prisoners slept jammed into narrow bunk beds three high. The posts and barbed wire of the fences that caged them in. A canister once filled with Zyklon B, a cyanide-based pesticide.

These artifacts are exhibited alongside items of a more personal nature – an embroidered blouse, a tallit katan worn by observant Jews, a small drawing by Anne Frank – and give the visitor a vivid sense of what life – and death – were like in the camp, where over 1.1 million people were murdered, a million of them Jews.

Paul Salmons, curator of the exhibition, shows a visit a tallit katan

Paul Salmons, curator of the exhibition, shows a visit a tallit katan

Holocaust scholar Robert Jan van Pelt, who is the chief curator of the exhibition, spoke of the simplicity of individual relics that remained at Auschwitz long after their owners had been gassed and their bodies burnt. They tell the story, he said.

It’s hard not to leave the exhibition without tearing. Some will sob. The exhibition does not have to go out of its way to shock the museum visitor: the horror of the mass murder mechanism created by the National Socialist regime is sufficient. The individual stories of those who perished and those who survived – conveyed through relics, their shoes, suitcases, pots and pans, and eyeglasses – creates a connection between the living and those who perished.

THE DETAILS

Auschwitz. Not Long Ago. Not Far Away.
Museum of Jewish Heritage
36 Battery Place
New York, N.Y. 10280
www.mjhnyc.org

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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