The most significant site of the Holocaust, Auschwitz was not a single entity, but a complex of 48 concentration and extermination camps, at which 1 million Jews—and tens of thousands of others—were murdered.
This groundbreaking exhibition brought together more than 700 original objects and 400 photographs from over 20 institutions and museums around the world. Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. is the most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the history of Auschwitz and its role in the Holocaust ever presented in North America, and an unparalleled opportunity to confront the singular face of human evil—one that arose not long ago and not far away.
Exhibition Features & Significance
For the first time, 74 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, a traveling exhibition dedicated to the historical significance of the camp is being presented to a U.S. audience. The exhibition’s opening on May 8, 2019 marked the anniversary of VE Day or Victory in Europe Day, 1945, when the Allies celebrated Nazi Germany’s surrender of its armed forces and the end of World War II.
Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. arrived in New York City after the exhibition completed a successful run at Madrid’s Arte Canal Exhibition Centre, where it was extended two times, drew more than 600,000 visitors, and was one of the most visited exhibitions in Europe last year. The exhibition explores the dual identity of the camp as a physical location—the largest documented mass murder site in human history—and as a symbol of the borderless manifestation of hatred and human barbarity.
Featuring more than 700 original objects and 400 photographs, the New York presentation of the exhibition allowed visitors to experience artifacts from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on view for the first time in North America, including hundreds of personal items—such as suitcases, eyeglasses, and shoes—that belonged to survivors and victims of Auschwitz. Other artifacts included concrete posts that were part of the fence of the Auschwitz camp; fragments of an original barrack for prisoners from the Auschwitz III-Monowitz camp; a desk and other possessions of the first and the longest serving Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss; a gas mask used by the SS; Picasso’s Lithograph of Prisoner; and an original German-made Model 2 freight train car used for the deportation of Jews to the ghettos and extermination camps in occupied Poland.
Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. traces the development of Nazi ideology and tells the transformation of Auschwitz from an ordinary Polish town known as Oświęcim to the most significant Nazi site of the Holocaust—at which approximately 1 million Jews, and tens of thousands of others, were murdered. Victims included Polish political prisoners, Sinti and Roma, Soviet POWs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and those the Nazis deemed “homosexual,” “disabled,” “criminal,” “inferior,” or adversarial in countless other ways. In addition, the exhibition contains artifacts that depict the world of the perpetrators—SS men who created and operated the largest of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camps.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage incorporated into the New York City presentation nearly 100 rare artifacts from its collection that relay the experience of survivors and liberators who found refuge in the greater New York area. These artifacts include: Alfred Kantor’s sketchbook and portfolio that contain over 150 original paintings and drawings from Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Schwarzheide; the trumpet that musician Louis Bannet (acclaimed as “the Dutch Louis Armstrong”) credits for saving his life while he was imprisoned in Auschwitz; visas issued by Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania often referred to as “Japan’s Oskar Schindler”; prisoner registration forms and identification cards; personal correspondence; tickets for passage on the St. Louis; a rescued Torah scroll from the Bornplatz Synagogue in Hamburg; and dreidels and bullets recovered by Father Patrick Desbois in a Jewish mass grave in Ukraine.
Also on display from the Museum of Jewish Heritage collection were Heinrich Himmler’s SS helmet and his annotated copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, as well as an anti-Jewish proclamation issued in 1551 by Ferdinand I that was given to Hermann Göring by German security chief Reinhard Heydrich on the occasion of Göring’s birthday. The proclamation required Jews to identify themselves with a “yellow ring” on their clothes. Heydrich noted that, 400 years later, the Nazis were completing Ferdinand’s work. These artifacts stand as evidence of a chapter of history that must never be forgotten.
Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. was conceived of by Musealia and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and curated by an international panel of experts, including world-renowned scholars Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt, Dr. Michael Berenbaum, and Paul Salmons, in an unprecedented collaboration with historians and curators at the Research Center at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, led by Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz.
The exhibition features artifacts and materials—never before seen in North America—on loan from more than 20 institutions and private collections around the world. In addition to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, participating institutions include Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Auschwitz Jewish Center in Oświęcim, the Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen in Oranienburg, and the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide in London.
Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. was presented in the symbolic, hexagonally-shaped building at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. This 18,000 square foot exhibition will introduce artifacts and Holocaust survivor testimony through 20 thematic galleries.
Throughout its presentation of Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away., the Museum hosted a series of related public, educational, and scholarly programming, featuring world-renowned experts on the Holocaust. The Museum also expanded its work with students in the tri-state area and introduce complementary educational tools for in-class and onsite use.
Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust was made possible with lead support by Bruce C. Ratner, George and Adele Klein Family Foundation, Ingeborg and Ira Leon Rennert, and Larry and Klara Silverstein & Family. The exhibition was presented in part with major support by The David Berg Foundation, Patti Askwith Kenner, Oster Family Foundation, and The Bernard and Anne Spitzer Charitable Trust. Additional generous support was provided by Simon & Stefany Bergson, The Knapp Family Foundation, and the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation.
Following the New York presentation, the exhibition moved to Kansas City, MO.
Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. was developed by a world-renowned team of experts on the history of the Holocaust and Holocaust education. Their multidisciplinary approach helped develop the most comprehensive Holocaust exhibition ever presented in the United States.
Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt is one of the main authorities on the history of Auschwitz. From 1997-98, he presided over the team that developed the master plan to preserve the Auschwitz camp and participated as an expert witness in the famous case against the British historian and author David Irving (London, 1998-2001), a Holocaust denier.
Dr. Van Pelt, born in Harleem (Netherlands), has published widely on the camp, including the award-winning Auschwitz, 1270 to the Present (1996) and The Case for Auschwitz (2002). Throughout his career, he has served as a historical advisor on films such as Auschwitz: The Nazis and ‘The Final Solution’ (2005) by Laurence Rees, and co-curated The Evidence Room, exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2016.
Dr. Michael Berenbaum is an author, professor, rabbi, and advisor on historical films and museum design. At the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, he is a professor of Jewish Studies and director of the Sigi Ziering Institute.
He was Project Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum from 1988-1993 and was the first Director of its Research Institute. Later, he served as President and CEO of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation (today the USC Shoah Foundation), which took the testimony of 52,000 Holocaust survivor in 32 languages and 57 countries.
Paul Salmons is an independent curator and educator specializing in difficult histories. He is consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Chief Curator of ‘Seeing Auschwitz’, an exhibition for the United Nations and UNESCO.
Salmons helped create the United Kingdom’s national Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum; co-founded the Centre for Holocaust Education at University College London; and played a leading role in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an inter-governmental body of more than 30 states. He is currently developing new exhibitions, pedagogies, and educational resources for clients in the UK, Europe, and North America.
Djamel Zeniti is an architect working for the Luxembourgish Goverment since 2009 and a regular lecturer at the Technical University in Vienna since 1998 on Architecture and Film. Between 2000 and 2008 he was also part of Austrian excavation teams working in Ephesus, Turkey.
In 1997 he participated in a month-long workshop on Holocaust history and Holocaust Memorial design hosted by Yad Vashem and Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem, which triggered his interest in Auschwitz.
He helped organize in 2000 a seminar on the Architecture of Genocide at the Technical University in Vienna. Two years later he created a small exhibition on the forensic interpretation of the architecture and ruins of the Auschwitz crematoria at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
Historians and Researchers at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
Led by director Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, the Centre for Research at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum carries out academic studies on the history of the concentration and extermination camp, publishing its findings in books, monographs, and articles. Among the Centre’s many publications, a highlight is the comprehensive volume on the history of Auschwitz.
Credits & Acknowledgments
Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. was originally created by Musealia, San Sebastián, in collaboration with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Oświęcim. The North American presentation is joined by the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, New York City.
Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is made possible with lead support by Bruce C. Ratner, George and Adele Klein Family Foundation, Ingeborg and Ira Leon Rennert, and Larry and Klara Silverstein & Family. The exhibition is presented in part with major support by The David Berg Foundation, Patti Askwith Kenner, Oster Family Foundation, and The Bernard and Anne Spitzer Charitable Trust. Additional generous support is provided by Simon & Stefany Bergson, The Knapp Family Foundation, and the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation.
Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
Jack Kliger, President & CEO
Michael S. Glickman, Immediate Past President & CEO
Elaine Valby, Chief of Staff
Rita Iosefson, Director of Major Gifts
Elizabeth Edelstein, Vice President for Education
Demetria Tsialas, Vice President for Finance
Michael Stafford, Vice President for Operations
Miriam Haier, Senior Director for External Affairs
Maggie Radd, Senior Manager for Exhibitions and Museum Registrar
Rose Durand, Assistant Registrar
Bryn Jayes, Preparator
Susan Woodland, Senior Manager for Collections and Research Services
Treva Walsh, Collections Project Manager
Michael Morris, Curatorial Associate
Lisa Safier, Director of Communications
Margot Lurie, Senior Manager for Strategy and Visitor Engagement
Mara Sonnenschein, Senior Manager for Communications
Ronald Underberg, Graphic Designer
Luis Ferreiro, Project Director
José Antonio Múgica, Executive Producer
María Teresa Aguirre, Executive Producer
Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt, Canada
Dr. Michael Berenbaum, United States
Miriam Greenbaum MA, Canada
Paul Salmons MA, United Kingdom
Dipl.-Ing. Djamel Zeniti, Luxembourg
Dr. Ana Galán Pérez, Collections
Icíar Palacios, Communications and PR
Amaia Múgica, Accounts
Marisa Ruiz, Human Resources
Andrea Calleja, Communications and PR Assistant
Design and Graphics
Dr. Anna Biedermann
Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, Director
Rafał Pióro, Deputy Director
Senior Managers Involved with the Exhibition
Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, Head of Research
Dr. Wojciech Płosa, Head of Archives
Elżbieta Cajzer, Head of Collections
Jolanta Banaś-Maciaszczyk, Head of Preservation
Aleksandra Papis, Head of Conservation Laboratories
Bartosz Bartyzel, Spokesman
Preparation and Administration of Artifacts Agnieszka Sieradzka
The Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust gratefully acknowledges the institutions and private collections that have together lent over 600 original artifacts for display in Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away.
Amud Aish Memorial Museum, New York
Anne Frank House, Amsterdam
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Oświęcim
Auschwitz Jewish Center, Oświęcim
Buchenwald Memorial, Weimar
Canadian War Museum, Ottawa
Christian Schad Museum, Aschaffenburg
Czartoryski Museum and Library, Kraków
Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin
Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum, Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot
Hartheim Castle Education and Memorial Centre, Alkoven
Holocaust Center for Humanity, Seattle
House of the Wannsee Conference, Berlin
Imperial War Museum, London
Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Munich
Institute of National Remembrance, Warsaw
Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam
Jewish Museum of Greece, Athens
Mauthausen Memorial, Mauthausen
Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg
Memorial Centre Westerbork, Hooghalen (The Netherlands)
Montreal Holocaust Museum, Montreal
Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, New York
Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, DC
NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam
Slovak National Archives, Bratislava
Terezin Initiative Institute, Prague
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC
Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide, London
Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
YIVO, New York
Lenders of Artifacts, Images, and Copyright Holders
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Oświęcim; Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, New York City; AKG Images, Berlin; Alexander Savin, Russia; Alfréd Wetzler family, Slovakia; Amud Aish Memorial Museum, New York; Anel Tolkachev, United States; Ann Weiss, United States; Auschwitz Jewish Center, Oświęcim; BiG Productions, New York City; Buchenwald Memorial, Weimar; Bundesarchiv, Berlin; Burgerbibliothek of Berne, Berne; Canadian War Museum, Ottawa; Ceija Stojka Estate-Hojda Stojka, Germany; Centropa, Vienna; Christa Schnepf, Germany; Christian Schad Museum, Aschaffenburg; Czartoryski Museum and Library, Kraków; Dr. Daniel Weihs, Israel; Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin; Dokumentationsarchiv des österreichischen Widerstandes, Vienna; Education and Memorial Center Hartheim Castle, Alkoven; Eleanor Fedrid, United States; Felix Nussbaum Haus, Osnabrück; Feng Shan Ho Family, United States; Florence & Laurence Spungen Family Foundation, United States; Förderkreis Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler, Hamburg; Friends of the March of the Living, Miami FL; Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum, Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot; Greenbaum Family, United States and Canada; Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung, Hamburg; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg; Hideout Museum Markt 12, Aalten; Historisches Museum, Frankfurt am Main; Holocaust Center for Humanity, Seattle; House of the Wannsee Conference, Berlin; Imperial War Museum, London; Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Munich; Institute of National Remembrance, Warsaw; Irene Guttmann Hizme and Rene Guttmann Slotkin, United States; Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam; Jewish Museum of Greece, Athens; Jewish Museum, London; Professor Judith Baumel-Schwartz, Israel; Katharina Brand, Germany; Klaus Fritsch, Vienna; Les Éditions de Minuit, Paris; Mauthausen Memorial, Mauthausen; Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg; Memorial Center Westerbork, Hooghalen; Montreal Holocaust Museum, Montreal; Miroslav Ganobis, Poland; Musealia, San Sebastian; National Archives, College Park; Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, DC; National Center for Jewish Film, Waltham; Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam; NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam; Paweł Sawicki, Poland; Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, Poland; Rainer Höss, Germany; Robert Jan van Pelt, Canada; Robin Vrba, United States; Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education, Chapman University, Orange; Russian Pavilion, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Oświęcim; Ruth-Anne Lenga, United Kingdom; St. Maximilian Kolbe Centre, Harmęże; Sanz-Briz family, Spain; Schweizerisches Bundesarchiv, Berne Shirley Kopolovic and Mark Levine, Canada; Shoah Foundation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Slovak National Archive, Bratislava; Sonja de Wind-Klijn, The Netherlands; Staatsbibliothek, Berlin; State Regional Archives, Pilsen; Stella Hasson DeLeon family, United States; Terezin Initiative Institute, Prague; Transit Film GmbH, Munich; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington DC; University of South Carolina, Columbia; Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide, London; William Kaczynski, United Kingdom; Yad Vashem, Jerusalem; Yale University Library, New Haven; YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York; Zdenka Fantlová-Erlich, United Kingdom;Zweite Deutsche Fernsehen (ZDF)—Zur Person.
Agnieszka Kocur Smoleń, Alexandra von Würzen, Alice Herscovitch, Alice Marxova, Álvaro Eduardo Martínez Bueno, Anabel Hernandez, Anat Bratman-Elhalel, Anne Bordeleau, Anne Sibylle Schwetter, Anton Kras, Ariana Zwiers, Dr. Artur Szyndler, Dr. Astrid Ley, Barbara Warnock, Dr. Ben Barkow, Caroline Davis, Christina Meri, Dr. Christine Schmidt, Cinita Herzberger, Dee Simon, Delores Delgado, Diny Griffioen-Drenthel, Dirk Mulder,Donald McKay, Edward Serotta, Elisabeth Klamper, Esme and Elly Gotz, Familia Sanz-Briz, Florian Schwanniner, Dr. Frank Bajohr, Dr. Gerhard Baumgartner, Dr. Guido Knopp, Dr. Günther Morsch, Hans Judy Jolly, Helena Svojsikova, Ilana Cone Kennedy, Irene Leitner, Izaskun Aseguinolaza,Jacek Nowakowski, Jakub Nowakowski, Joanna Berendt, Joanna Millick, Juan José Arrizabalaga, Judith Cohen, Julia Ortmeyer, Julia Thompson, Julio Martín Alarcón, Karl Stojka, Dr. Klaus Lankheit, Laura Elvira Martínez Bueno, Laurie Warshal Cohen, Lidia Maksymowicz, Luis Lafuente Batanero, MAEC Archive, Marc Oler, Maren Krüger, Dr. Marilyn J. Harran, Mark Levine, Maria Aguilar, Maria José Olaizola, Marie-Claude Hawry, Martina Caspers, Dr. Mary Johnson, Melcher de Wind, Menachem Rosensaft, Michael Haupt, Michael Nugent, Milan Richter, Morgan Ahern, Moritz Pankok,Natalia Semanova, Oliver Plöger, Peter Eigelsberger, Pilar Aguilar, Raquel Fernández, Robert Frey, Roberta Hyman, Roberto Sancho, Roman Kent, Rosa Mettbach, Sarah Kindermann, Sarah Nichols, Sora Stöckl, Stella Nina Michaelis, Tamira de Wind, Tereza Štěpková (Terezin Initiative Institute), Thomas Blatt, Thomas Richter, Thomas Weber, Toby Sonneman, Unai Fernández de Betoño, Vanda Mikolowska Solomon, Verena Borgmann, Vital Zajka, Vivian Uria, Dr. William Shulman, Władysław Bartoszewski, Władysław and Piotr Malarek, Wojtek Smoleń, Yariv Lapid.