On December 1st, 2017, an exhibition co-produced by the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau arrived in Madrid, which will tour the capitals of the world so that this period of history is not so easily forgotten.
“Auschwitz. Not a long time ago. Not too far”
Since I found out about this exhibition, I knew that I should go to see it. I began to inform myself of the work carried out by the museum, its objectives and how the exhibition had been planned. I knew it would be a very difficult exhibition to contemplate. Difficult but necessary.
No matter how much you have read about the conflict that developed throughout the Second World War, or how many conferences have been attended or documentaries have been seen. To watch more than 6000 authentic objects of the concentration camp is a shock of reality so hard to assimilate.
When I got to the exhibition, before even approach to the ticket office, I could see a train wagon like the one that used to be at the entrance to the concentration camp. Just seeing it from the distance froze my blood. At that moment all the pain, the victims, the loneliness, the anger, the ignorance and the fear crowded in my chest. I had to stop for a moment and look at it in silence, as a sign of respect for all the lives that ended in wagons like that. When I got closer I saw that it was an authentic car. It was really shocking.
It took me almost 4 hours to cover the entire exhibition. I knew it would be big, but my expectations were way below that what I found. I had no idea how this trip was going to be. Actually I must say that you can notice the care with which they present each and every one of the objects. In fact, at some point in my journey I was asked by people from the organization, as I didn’t have an audio guide, they wanted to know if everything was understood without it’s help. This simply shows the care they want to put so the visitor can receive the message clearly.
“¡Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it!!
The first thing they show you are parts of the electrified fences that the field had, you see them as close as the wagon in the entrance. They explain all the technical aspects and it is really disturbing to see how much effort they put into keeping so many people locked up and the price that had to be paid for trying to escape from that hell. This was not random. There was a lot of planning by a lot of people.
The exhibition takes you through the history from the First World War to the present day, showing the battles, the economic, social and political impact that have been modifying the way of thinking of society. They show you so many objects, like buckles with the SS logo, uniform boots, propaganda items and… board games!
The approach is so big that, as you go further, you will see the things that happened throughout this period. As expected, there are certain objects that paralyze your soul such as the prisoners’ uniform, the wooden “beds”, all the suitcases and personal belongings that remained at the entrance of the camp , the shoes, the clothes. So many stories that were buried, so many lives …
The illustration entitled “Without words” by the artist Zinovii Tolkatchev, who was part of the Red Army and was in the liberation of Auschwitz is really shocking. He made this illustration on a letterhead from the field commandant’s office. You can feel the loneliness at this… “Without words”
Another thing that really impressed me was the model they have of the concentration camp: It’s so big, really big … I had no idea of the magnitude or complexity.
Within so much misfortune, there was also room for hope. There were rooms in which they showed objects like the Heart of Auschwitz which is a small heart-shaped booklet made by Zlatka Pitluk in which 19 women signed to congratulate Fania Fainer. Messages full of hope, because somehow you had to survive.
Finally, you have many interviews of some survivors of the concentration camp. And the message that united all them is “This cannot happen again”. The new generations have the commitment and the responsibility that things like this never happen again. They tell us that we must think, inform ourselves, respect and be responsible for our actions and our words. They encourage us to live and to enjoy all the good things that surround us and to fight to maintain and spread it through respect.