I hope you’ll appreciate that there are no photographs from the Holocaust Gallery of the Imperial War Museum London to accompany this piece. Partly it is the ruling from the Imperial War Museum and also because the images themselves are quite disturbing.
The gallery was only recently revamped and shows how the Holocaust developed from a policy to deal with those who did not fit in with the Nazi politics of the time. Later as they were moved from place to place there became a need to house and feed these families fathers mothers and children. Later this evolved into the extermination of 6 Million.
The story of how the deportations were arranged is shown. The IWM also have a display concerning those who worked on the railways and played a significant part in the Holocaust process.
The exhibition shows British daily newspaper from 1941/2 when there is a first mention of the concentration camps. Surprisingly these articles seem to have been published on the inner pages say 5 and 6 of the newspapers of that time.
Was the format different from today? which explains why the news is not on the front page.
Or was the news so shocking that they did not feel that those who read it would believe that such inhumane processes could be occurring?
The exhibition also shows what lengths those who were in the camps had to go to survive.
There is a room set aside for a scale model of the railway at Auschwitz which is particularly distressing. It shows a train that has arrived and the large numbers of Jewish people of all ages being marched towards the various sections of the camp and separated into those who might be allowed to work or to be killed rapidly. To understand that there were 4 sections of this camp all dedicated to the killing Jews does indicate how far the brutality had gone.
The final stages of the exhibition was about the post war period and the trials of war criminals. There must have been tens of thousands involved in the stages of the Holocaust process (sorry a polite word to cover killing millions just for being of a certain race or not fitting the state stereotype). The exhibition makes clear that only a small proportion were brought before the courts.
One worrying aspect of the exhibition is the way that the Holocaust policy targeted the elderly, the infirm and those with any defect in mental capacity.
This should serve as a warning to all of us, because such ideas seem not far from the surface even in today’s society. Think about those who want to limit the number of immigrants or refugees who come to this country. This is fortunately currently rejected by the majority who take a more balanced and humane view.
The final irony however was as we left the Imperial War Museum we walked past several homeless people. The current advice is that one should not give these people any money as it will be spent on drugs or alcohol. Their situation is desperate however. Its worth considering how easy and rapidly one can loose all those trappings of a safe existence and end up on the streets. Are we showing adequate humanity to these unfortunate people
We saw a similar exhibition in Gdansk’s World War 2 Museum. This was all shown from a Polish viewpoint. The issue of an industrial process to kill people is the same however. Photography-World War 2 Museum Gdansk
The following are useful links to the Imperial War Museum
Do go and visit this part of the Imperial War Museum. We all need to see, understand and appreciate how Nazi society came to endorse such inhuman policies.