The Greek Permanent Exhibition at the Auschwitz Memorial Museum
This is a major project undertaken and funded by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which in turn, has assigned the research and creation of content (texts, panels and info-kiosks) of the exhibition to the Jewish Museum of Greece. The project begun in 2008 and is expected to be completed in 2012. The Greek Permanent Exhibition will be mounted in two rooms of the ground floor of Building 18 of the Auschwitz Memorial Museum, covering an area of about 170 square meters. The larger room will present the historical part of the exhibition, while the smaller one will be appointed as a memorial space, in memory of the Greeks who lost their lives in the camp. This exhibition constitutes one of the most significant projects the JMG has worked on, since its foundation in 1977.
The main idea behind the research, collection and selection of content for the Greek exhibition at the Auschwitz Museum is the creation of an anthropocentric presentation, featuring the people who lived through this dreadful misadventure and using the historical narration as "background". Sources of material and information include the JMG Photographic Archive and Collection of documents and artifacts, other Greek archival collections, relevant museums and institutions located abroad, as well as the related extensive bibliography.
After a brief introduction to the Greek Jewish Communities, the oldest in Europe, the beginning of which is placed at least in the mid-3rd century BCE according to archaeological evidence, the visitor receives selected information about life before World War II. The narrative continues in the main part of the exhibition, referring to the beginning of WW II in Greece, the events of the occupation that led to the deportations, the transports to Auschwitz, daily life in the camp and the brutal murder of most Greek Jews there, in a terrible and unbelievable way. The research includes the search for Christian Greek camp detainees, who were arrested mainly because of resistance activities. Every event, every step of the historical narration is coupled with personal testimonies of people who were present and witnessed the same frightening and anxious moments and circumstances. In this way, the visitors will not be introduced to the general history of WW II, or of the Auschwitz Camp, which is available elsewhere in the museum, but they can focus specifically on the history of Greeks in Auschwitz, which is the aim of this exhibition. The frame of the historical events places the personal stories within the broader context of space and time and gives them accuracy and universal meaning. The narration continues with the evacuation of the camp and the liberation and concludes with a brief reference to the reorganization of the communities after the war and to their current situation.
Two interactive info-kiosks with touch screens, containing digital applications of the Jewish Museum of Greece on the subjects: A. “The History of the Jews of Greece "and B. "World War II and the Holocaust of Greek Jews, from 1941 to 1945", will be placed at specific points in the exhibition. These info-kiosks will offer the visitor who chooses to use them, more information and visual material on the issues they present, without burdening the limited space available.
At a central point of the narration, photos and stories relating to the life before the war will be presented, in order to make it once again clear to the visitor, that the targets of this unthinkable tragedy were everyday people, the people "next door", and not a nation of martyrs or victims.
The main subjects to be covered by the exhibition, which will be produced in three languages, Greek, Polish and English, are:
LIFE BEFORE THE WAR
WORLD WAR II AND THE HOLOCAUST/ Auschwitz
LIFE AFTER THE WAR
SURVIVORS’ BIOGRAPHIES (interviews conducted by the JMG, part of the JMG Archive of Oral Testimonies )
The first three chapters will be presented in historical order, whereas the biographies constituting the fourth section will be organized according to their connection with a specific subject, such as deportations, forced labor, medical experiments, etc. As it can be understood, it is not possible to include all the survivors’ personal stories available. The ones chosen for presentation will illustrate diverse experiences and interesting turns of events. Historical material and information throughout the exhibition will be accompanied by characteristic photographs and reproductions of documents, resulting in an informative and emotive experience for the visitor.
At the moment, the texts have been written and translated, the trilingual panels have been designed and a digital imaging video presentation of the proposed exhibition has been produced for the examination and approval of the Auschwitz Museum Academic Committee. As soon as this stage of the work is completed and any possible changes have been made, the exhibition will move to the stage of production, to be completed by its transportation to Poland and mounting in Building 18 of the Auschwitz Memorial Museum.
© JMG, May 2011