Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Architecture of Murder

The torrential rain and the wind in Jerusalem on Monday didn’t prevent the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and diplomats representing some 80 countries from attending the opening of a new exhibition at Yad Vashem marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The dignitaries, guests, and Holocaust survivors, undeterred by the inclement weather and security checks, filled the auditorium to capacity to attend the accompanying symposium.

The exhibition, “Architecture of Murder: The Auschwitz-Birkenau Blueprints,” centers around a group of original blueprints that were found in an abandoned apartment in Berlin in 2008. The sketches, mostly prepared in the fall of 1941, were acquired by the newspaper The Bild, part of the German media concern Axel Springer, who in turn gave them to Yad Vashem for safekeeping. Kai Diekmann, Editor of The Bild, described the sketches as "Plans of hell - that remind us, like nothing else, of the responsibility the German people do and must always feel toward the state of Israel. And remembrance is, in fact, their main function: These plans remind us of a crime, that, with the passing of time, seems ever more incomprehensible. Auschwitz stands for the guilt and blindness of an entire nation. Something so huge, it can hardly be grasped by new generations. That is why it is of the utmost importance to continue to be reminded of it. Because only those that know the past can act responsibly in the future."

The display includes an aerial photo of the massive Auschwitz-Birkenau complex, excerpts from the Vrba-Wetzler Report, written by two Jewish escapees from Auschwitz in 1944, an album displaying pictures of the camp’s construction and quotes from SS men and Jewish inmates describing the site and its murderous purposes. Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev remarked, “The original plans detailing the construction of Auschwitz constitute graphic illustration of the Germans’ systematic effort to carry out the Final Solution. We have chosen to display them to the public to illustrate how seemingly conventional activities of ordinary people brought about the construction of the largest murder site of European Jewry."

The exhibition will be on display in the Exhibitions Pavilion at Yad Vashem through February 28, 2010, after which parts of the exhibition will be displayed in the foyer of the Archives and Library Building. A traveling version of the exhibition opened at the UN Headquarters in New York on January 26, 2010 and will be on display there until March 1, 2010.

1 comment:

  1. A friend and writing colleague who has just returned from her first visit to Israel has written about her visit to Yad Vashem at The name of her essay is "Yad Vashem." I thought you might appreciate seeing what she wrote.