Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened a new exhibit at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp, focused both on Jewish prewar life and a book of 4.2 million names of those murdered in the Holocaust.
“The State of Israel will do whatever is necessary to prevent another Holocaust,” Netanyahu said today at the ceremony, according to an e-mailed comment from his office. “We must not be complacent in the face of threats of annihilation. We must not bury our heads in the sand or allow others to do the work for us.”
Located in Block 27 of what was the largest of the death camps operated by Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, the “Shoah” exhibition was designed, curated and built by the Yad Vashem Institute for Holocaust Research.
It replaces a communist-era display that most of nearly 1.5 million people who visit Auschwitz every year chose not to enter, according to the Jerusalem-based institute.
“We wanted to present the main aspects of Shoah and put Auschwitz in a wider context of the Nazis’ attempt to exterminate the Jews,” Avner Shalev, the exhibition’s curator told reporters yesterday in Auschwitz, 313 kilometers (194 miles) south of Warsaw and known as Oswiecim in Polish. “In a place like this it doesn’t have to be presented in a chronological order. We wanted to present it in a visual way to give a visitor the sense of experience.”
The exhibition takes visitors through images of Jewish life before World War II in front of a “geography of terror” map that shows sites where about 6 million Jews were killed as Nazis ran a campaign across Europe that included random executions, plunder and death camps.
Auschwitz is located in an area of Poland that was taken over by the Third Reich at the start of World War II in 1939.
The hallway leading into the exhibition features the sound of a prayer, “Ani Ma’Amin” or “I believe” in Hebrew, with moving letters displayed on the wall opposite the entrance. The visitor is then led into a room, where a montage of original photos and film of everyday life of 10.8 million Jews living in Europe before World War II is shown on the walls.
The second floor goes from presenting footage of Nazi rallies and scenes of book burning to videos of interviews with Holocaust survivors. “The Traces of Life” exhibition that follows is the work of an artist, Michal Rovner, and is devoted to 1.5 million Jewish children that were killed.
Based on 6,000 children’s drawings that Yad Vashem collected from around the world, she chose more than 100 for the room’s white walls. Accompanied with the sound of children speaking, drawings sketched on a child’s eye-level are meant to make visitors feel that those dead still “are among us,” Rovner said.
“We have to be aware that the death of those 1.5 million children is as if all limits of humanity have been exceeded,” she said.
The exhibition, which includes two rooms for reflection, ends with a Book of Names. Two meters (6.6 feet) high and 14 meters in circumference it contains names in chronological order and information about people who died in the Holocaust. They were collected by Yad Vashem over the past 60 years.
Several pages at the end have been left empty.
To contact the reporter on this story: Piotr Skolimowski in Warsaw at firstname.lastname@example.org