Behind the Scenes of the Museum and Memorial Auschwitz-Birkenau

Walking through the gates of Auschwitz was surreal. The infamous camp sees about one million visitors every year. Each of the barracks have been renovated as exhibition spaces or offices, and many of the exhibitions have been organized by specific countries for the Jews from these respective countries. In 1947, Auschwitz became a protected site of the state with the purpose of remembering those who perished there. Since then, the staff has been preserving and conserving the site and artifacts found at the site.

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Our visit to Poland: the Lublin Ghetto and Museum

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Students Meredith, Coos and Hana and Guide John listening to our NN Theatre guide.

While in Lublin, our group visited the NN Theatre. After the fall of communism in Poland, there was a surge to regain the memories lost about the war. The project’s goal was to study and learn about Jewish history in WWII, and it started at the Grodzka Gate, or the gate to the Jewish Quarter in old Lublin, which became the NN Theatre. Coincidently, it was also the gate to the Jewish Ghetto during the Holocaust and it was part of an underground black market in Lublin.

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Files in the background as students from Cohort V listen to our guide

Now, the building acts as a functioning museum and education center about the Holocaust. The rooms are lined with archives, most rooms have rows of shelves all around the walls, and they have a folder for every single Jew who lived and died in the Lublin Ghetto. Sometimes, there is only a name and an address and other times the folder is full of information, but the group continues to collect information on the Jewish population. They also curate an impressive photo archive, and in many of the photos the staff can identify different people and tell their stories.

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Our Visit to the Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum: Research in the Archives

This is part two of a series about our four day seminar at the Ghetto Fighters’ House. You can read about the first day of our visit here.

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Cohort V visiting the Remembrance Hall exhibition.

On the second day of the Ghetto Fighters’ House Seminar, Cohort V met with Anat Bratman-Elhalel, the head of archives. She took us to the Remembrance Hall, an exhibit that was just finished a year ago. The exhibition is designed in such a way that the archives are brought to the public. The artifacts are behind dark glass, the visitors use touch screens to illuminate the objects and get information about each of the objects. Four of our students are helping further the research of the exhibit. Anat talked to us about what remembrance is and how to allow the artifacts tell us history.

 

The students were also taken to the Researchers Room and given access to the vast archives. The Ghetto Fighters’ House has an exceptional collection of art made during the Holocaust, and most of their pieces are available for viewing online. One of our students will be assisting with an exhibition of Malva Schalek’s work from the Theresienstadt Ghetto. Malva was killed in Auschwitz but her paintings linger and relate what life was like in Theresienstadt. This exhibition will start in June, so stay tuned for more information.

The students were also taken through different exhibitions at the museum, including the Warsaw Ghetto Fights Back exhibition. The museum was designed in such a way for groups to be taken through each exhibit exclusively their their own group. Each exhibit has a place for a group to sit and discuss the exhibit. Our students discussed the importance of resistance in the Holocaust, including spiritual resistance, a term coined by Miriam Novitch, a Holocaust survivor and founding member of the Ghetto Fighters’ House kibbutz. Miriam advocated for Holocaust survivors who weren’t involved in active violent resistance, but called attention to resistance through participation in Jewish traditions, prayer, even living.

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Cohort V at the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising exhibition.

The students were also brought to the Camps Exhibition, here they were asked to dissect the symbolism in the exhibition design. They talked about exhibition design pertaining to the Holocaust and how to successfully show and impart messages. The Ghetto Fighters’ House staff was excellent in sharing museology with our students.

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Cohort V working with testimonies from founders of the Ghetto Fighters’ House Kibbutz


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

 

John Shares about Internships at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum

Starring John Roxborough


John has an internship this year with the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum. He will be researching and working with artifacts in the impressive archives to share individual stories of the Holocaust.


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website