Created by the Spanish company Musealia together with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland and originally developed for the United Nations’ observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, the Seeing Auschwitz exhibition has been on display worldwide, to critical acclaim. The exhibition makes its first stop in Joburg, before making its way to Durban and Cape Town later this year.
The exhibition aims to expand the understanding of the real lived experience of victims and survivors of the Holocaust, by asking viewers to interrogate these photographs beyond what can just be seen. In this way, the exhibition endeavours to provide a broader window and deeper insight into the humanity and everyday lives of victims and survivors, alongside the horrors.
Lead curator and one of the world's leading experts on the Holocaust, Paul Salmons, says that by focusing on individual photographs through the lens of their physical setting, time and place, source and historical context, the viewer is confronted with the question, what does this image truly reveal?
"[The photographs] look like faithful portraits of an instant, but [they] are not neutral sources at all,” says Salmons, “It is necessary to stop and analyse them to really see what each image truly reveals, not only about the place and the moment, but also about their own authors, the people portrayed, and even about ourselves as viewers.”
The vast collection of images and documentation on display comes from varying sources, including audiovisual testimonies of survivors, photographs from inside the camp taken by SS perpetrators themselves, aerial photographs of the camp taken by allied troops (including South African Air Force’s 60 Squadron, one of the leading aerial photographic units operating in Europe during the war), amongst other sources.
The exhibition opening event on Sunday, Nov 13 will coincide with a programme of prominent international speakers, including a keynote by film producer and director of March of Remembrance and Hope – Austria Iris Singer and remarks by the Ambassador of Israel, Ambassador and Minister, Head of the Political and Economic Department, of the Polish Embassy, Ambassador of Germany and Deputy Ambassador of Austria.
The exhibition opening event takes place on Sunday, Nov 13 from 14:30 for 15:00 to 16:00 at The Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre. The event is free to attend, but booking in advance is essential, as spaces are limited. To book, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
General admission to view the exhibition is also free and venue opening times are Monday to Sunday from 9:00 to 16:30.