Saturday, February 05, 2011

Your Mandatory Daily Holocaust Reminder

Preserving Holocaust history - 2/6/11

"MY WIFE and I, both of whom had grandparents who perished in the Holocaust, recently visited Auschwitz and, not far away, Birkenau. It was with this visit in mind that I read Bill Porter’s article “Preserving a symbol of evil’’

I saw Auschwitz as a well-preserved, antisepticized version of hell. Bunks, rooms, latrines, well-swept rooms, exhibits of hair, boots, glasses, suitcases, transport documents, rail cars. No smell of death or terror; and nicely labeled informational signs in several languages.

Birkenau tries to be different, leaving things more as they actually were, with less effort on reconstruction or preservation. For example, the brick-oven buildings the Nazis used to cremate their victims are left to crumble and are now sinking into the ground. Wooden buildings are deteriorating.

Each camp represents its own attempt to signify a philosophy of historic memory, but neither is entirely successful, nor can any one solution ever be. There is no “correct’’ way to preserve and demonstrate this awful chapter. All the good people involved in this struggle have to confront, balance, and ultimately deal unsuccessfully with the demands of theme park, historic event, tourist attraction, education center, and religious or moral message."


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