25 April 2005

Holocaust exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, London

Shoes collected at Majdanek

The Imperial War Museum's Holocaust Exhibition uses photographs, documents, original artefacts and film, to present a series of different aspects of the persecution and genocide perpetrated in Germany, and throughout the territory occupied by the Germans, in the 1930s and 1940s. A funeral cart from the Warsaw Ghetto sits adjacent to diaries of those who died through hunger and disease; part of a deportation cattle-waggon is incorporated into one display, as are chilling Nazi uniforms. One of the most striking displays is a model of part of Auschwitz, with the trains, barracks and entrance to the underground gas chambers, all in white; it contains thousands of human figures about a centimetre high; this model, together with maps of the camps spread across Europe, conveys the scale of the well-organised horror. Contrasting with the account of industrialised murder are impressions of the men, women and children who suffered Nazi policies and died as a result of them. Individualised perspectives are conveyed both through the TV screens on which survivors are talking about their experiences and through documents such as postcards and notes written by deportees. There is a panel showing the euphemisms used by the Nazis and those coined by concentration camp prisoners, reflecting the alien world for which new language had to be found.