13 June 2013
Today, Thursday, June 13, 2013 the new Permanent Exhibition SHOAH at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Block 27 will open in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, other Israeli government ministers, Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski, Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Piotr Cywinski, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate and exhibition curator Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau and Holocaust survivors.
Yad Vashem Chairman and exhibition curator Avner Shalev said, “The new exhibition SHOAH presents the main elements of the Holocaust, placing the murder at Auschwitz-Birkenau in the larger context of the Nazis’ systematic attempt to exterminate the Jewish people. The Polish State Museum and its guides believe that this unique concept will complement its other exhibitions by providing an added dimension that was previously absent. By placing the individual at its center, the exhibition presents the main elements of the Holocaust in a unique way. Chapter by chapter, the display presents the major themes, not necessarily chronologically, but rather by conveying a profound ethical-cultural perspective of Holocaust remembrance."
The New Permanent Exhibition SHOAH in Block 27 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum was curated, designed and built by Yad Vashem, in coordination with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. The old exhibition, dating to the Communist-era, had become outdated, both in terms of content as well as of display, and most visitors to the camp chose not to enter it at all. In 2005, following a visit by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Yad Vashem was mandated by the State of Israel to undertake the renewal of the exhibition. The renovation was funded by the State of Israel with assistance from the Claims Conference.
A definition of "Holocaust/Shoah" is written on the wall of the exhibition foyer. As the visitor leaves the entrance, and enters the hallway, the senses are suffused with the words and melody of prayer - a Jewish and universal expression of the human spirit. Upon entering the adjoining space, visitors are engulfed in an enveloping 360-degree cinematic montage of original footage of Jewish life between the two world wars. Following this sweeping panorama, visitors are confronted with the central tenets of Nazi-German racist ideology, the main motivation behind the Germans' imperative of annihilating the Jewish people.
A space depicting the murder of the Jewish people contains a unique map illustrating the vast geographic dimensions of the genocide. The following space presents the human struggle with this terrifying new reality, as millions of individuals fought to maintain their personal and communal dignity. The next space is devoted to the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered during the Shoah - an inspired and heartrending artwork comprised of fragments of authentic drawings sketched by Jewish children during the Holocaust, copied onto the surrounding walls by the artist. This is followed by the monumental "Book of Names" – 2 meters high and 14 meters in circumference – containing 4.2 million names of murdered Jews gathered over the past 60 years by Yad Vashem and created especially for this exhibition. At the end of the book are empty pages, leaving room for additional insertions as the task of collecting names of victims is not yet complete. Finally, 12 frames hang on the wall opposite the Book, as if in a family home, with a rotating display of 250 photographs of Holocaust survivors and their families, showing the restored lives of the survivors. Two rooms adjoining the exhibition provide a quiet place for contemplation and reflection.
The new exhibition combines powerful visual displays with short texts that will provide a profound experience for the nearly 1.5 million annual visitors to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Designed and planned by Studio de Lange Ltd., curators, historians, philosophers, artists and designers, including Chanan de Lange, Michal Rovner, David Grossman, Niv Ben David, Noemi Schory and Hagit Shimoni, all participated in and contributed to the creation of the exhibition. The concept behind the new exhibition was presented and discussed by an inter-ministerial steering committee headed by Dr. Shimshon Shoshani as well as by an international advisory committee which was headed by Professor Elie Wiesel and composed primarily of historians and Holocaust survivors.
"We understood that the language of design had to be focused, brief and clear. Basic information had to be integrated within an experience deriving from the exhibition's location at the chillingly authentic site of human history's largest death factory: Auschwitz-Birkenau," explained exhibition curator Shalev.
It is estimated that a visit to the exhibition will last approximately half an hour.