Part of efforts to keep Holocaust memory alive in an uncertain world, a roving exhibition of artifacts from Auschwitz-Birkenau premieres in Madrid
By Matt Lebovic
An unprecedented world tour of artifacts from Auschwitz-Birkenau premiered in Madrid on December 1, the first stop in a “roving exhibition” about the Nazi death camp where one million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
With the tagline, “Not long ago. Not far away,” the tour will appear in 14 cities during the next seven years, primarily in Europe and North America. It is organized by Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and Spain’s Musealia group, which calls itself “an artistic and documentary research project.” The exhibition includes more than 600 artifacts on loan from the museum, as well as from Israel’s Yad Vashem, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and private collections.
From a segment of the camp’s electrified fence, to a German children’s board game called “Jews Out,” organizers seek to portray the “dual nature” of Auschwitz as both a site of genocide and enduring symbol of evil.
“Today, the world is moving in uncertain directions. That is why we need to rely more and more on the strong foundations of our memory,” said Piotr M. A. Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. “Nothing can replace a visit to the authentic site of the biggest crime of the 20th century, but this exhibition, which people in many countries will have the opportunity to see, can become a great warning cry for us all,” said Cywiński.
At 2,500-square meters, the collection space is vast, comparable to the world tour of objects salvaged from the Titanic wreck, also put on by Musealia. Visitors are advised to allot 90 minutes to pass through the maze of relics, many of them juxtaposed with historical photographs for context. There are half a dozen large, detailed models to view, including of the gas chamber-crematorium complexes where, in addition to Jews, thousands of Poles, Roma, and other victims were murdered.
Although the tour just opened in Spain, there are already signs of a welcome reception, according to Musealia.
“We already sold more than 27,000 tickets and about 250 school groups have booked tours,” said Iciar Palacios, a spokesperson for Musealia.
“During our first weekend, we were sold out every day, which made us very proud,” Palacios told The Times of Israel, adding that admission is free for school groups who visit between now and the middle of June, when the exhibition will move to its second European city.