Tuesday, November 30, 2021
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Review: Auschwitz. Not Long Ago. Not Far Away.

“A Living Memorial of the Holocaust” is a Union Station exhibit with artifacts loaned from over 20 institutions, open until January 2022.

More than 700 original objects and 400 photographs have been brought together for the purpose of telling the harsh tragedy behind Auschwitz, the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp. 

An audio tour guide tells visitors details about the artifacts and gives background information for every section of the exhibit. Maps and outlines are organized along the tour, along with television sets that display the accounts of Auschwitz survivors.

One of the first pieces in the tour is a woman’s dirty dress shoe belonging to an unknown deportee to Auschwitz. Her worn out shoe is a symbol of her suffering and a mark of her existence. Barbed wires and concrete are set up to reveal how the victims were trapped by the Nazis. 

The actual blue and gray striped pajamas the victims were forced to wear as they slaved away in traumatic conditions are hung up on display. The pajamas looked extremely worn out by the unknown number of people they were passed along to.

Videos along the tour reveal the praise and positive outlook the German people held of Hitler as they cheer him on. His confidence and ego while committing genocide are clearly present on his face. It’s shocking to see how Hitler was so comfortable with his actions, but more shocking that people so blindly loved a man that was a mass murderer.

The exhibit brings attention to other groups that Hitler targeted, such as people of color, Romani people and those affected by disabilities. The blue striped pajamas had stitched symbols that represented the so-called crimes of those deemed as “‘genetically defective.” Each of these targeted groups had their own symbol.

One product of this genocide is the increasing rise or call to Zionism, a movement to establish and protect a Jewish nation in Palestine. The exhibit briefly shows videos of children taking part in Zionist organizations and even has dedicated a section to Zionism. The narrative of Zionism is displayed as the solution to the oppression of the Jewish.

Every piece tells the story of hatred and division. While Auschwitz is something of the past, the cause for what led to mass murder is still present today. The exhibit serves as a reminder to what bigotry and ignorance produces in a time of major division between all types of diverse people in our own country. It forces us to confront the questions: Why are we so divided as a nation? What is leading to an increasing racism problem, and how are we tackling the issue?

Hitler was loved by many during his lifetime while simultaneously committing genocide and discriminating for a “master race.” He was no real leader, but managed to give false perceptions of himself through propaganda.

The façade strongly relates to what Malcolm X stated during his lifetime.

“The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent,” he said.

While the tour was exceptional in regard to education and remembrance, the proposed solution to the Holocaust is defective. Zionism has led to the occupation of Palestine and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. As a memory site for a horrific genocide, the promotion of Zionism is ironic as it stands for another people’s genocide.

To reserve a spot for visiting the site, tickets on Union Station’s website can be purchased on any date and time, available with prices varying based on age. The exhibit is quite long, so make sure to reserve a couple of hours to get proper insight on what Auschwitz was about and how it relates to our world today. 

ygsz6z@mail.umkc.edu

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