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Between evidence and symbol: the Auschwitz album in Yad Vashem, the Imperial War Museum (London) and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Between evidence and symbol: the Auschwitz album in Yad Vashem, the Imperial War Museum (London) and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
Between evidence and symbol: the Auschwitz album in Yad Vashem, the Imperial War Museum (London) and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
This project explores the representation of the Holocaust in three museums: Yad Vashem in Jerusalem; the Imperial War Museum in London; and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim, Poland. It uses the so-called Auschwitz Album, a collection of photographs taken in Birkenau in May 1944, as a case-study. Employing the concept of mythology in the Barthesian sense of a ‘language in which we speak’, it examines the ways in which the Holocaust is more and more a prism through which other things are viewed; a language in which other things are spoken of.

Chapters 1 and 2 lay the groundwork for the results of fieldwork described in chapters 3-5. Chapter 1 is concerned with the photographs themselves. Describing the structure and content of the collection, it demonstrates the degree to which the interpretation of photographs is complicated by what the viewer brings to them. While photographs might appear to transmit information, this chapter suggests that they are better understood as reflective objects. Chapter 2 interrogates the assumptions of five “classic” accounts of the Holocaust by Raul Hilberg, Helmut Krausnick, Lucy Dawidowicz, Martin Gilbert and Saul Friedländer, in light of a proposed ‘Holocaust metanarrative’.

Chapters 3, 4 and 5 engage with the particular museums on their own terms, posing questions about how they interact with the societies they are found in. Each museum, these chapters argue, raises a set of questions about the host nation’s relationship with the past.

Chapter 6 looks at the specific display strategies employed by the museums to display the Auschwitz Album, considers how this relates to the broader institutional and national agendas as explored in Chapters 3-5. An epilogue takes the basic conclusion of this section – that all memory is local, and that debate about meaning is likely to be the continuing legacy – and asks if there is an alternative language in which to speak of the Holocaust.
Ashworth, Jaime
b41776ff-b45e-4a65-a628-499bbaa92d75
Ashworth, Jaime
b41776ff-b45e-4a65-a628-499bbaa92d75
Reiter, Andrea
2d3fad43-ac1d-4ec7-bd9f-0b9168492a84
Schloer, Joachim
bb73c4ae-2ef4-44ba-b889-b319afb40b03

Ashworth, Jaime (2011) Between evidence and symbol: the Auschwitz album in Yad Vashem, the Imperial War Museum (London) and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis, 316pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This project explores the representation of the Holocaust in three museums: Yad Vashem in Jerusalem; the Imperial War Museum in London; and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim, Poland. It uses the so-called Auschwitz Album, a collection of photographs taken in Birkenau in May 1944, as a case-study. Employing the concept of mythology in the Barthesian sense of a ‘language in which we speak’, it examines the ways in which the Holocaust is more and more a prism through which other things are viewed; a language in which other things are spoken of.

Chapters 1 and 2 lay the groundwork for the results of fieldwork described in chapters 3-5. Chapter 1 is concerned with the photographs themselves. Describing the structure and content of the collection, it demonstrates the degree to which the interpretation of photographs is complicated by what the viewer brings to them. While photographs might appear to transmit information, this chapter suggests that they are better understood as reflective objects. Chapter 2 interrogates the assumptions of five “classic” accounts of the Holocaust by Raul Hilberg, Helmut Krausnick, Lucy Dawidowicz, Martin Gilbert and Saul Friedländer, in light of a proposed ‘Holocaust metanarrative’.

Chapters 3, 4 and 5 engage with the particular museums on their own terms, posing questions about how they interact with the societies they are found in. Each museum, these chapters argue, raises a set of questions about the host nation’s relationship with the past.

Chapter 6 looks at the specific display strategies employed by the museums to display the Auschwitz Album, considers how this relates to the broader institutional and national agendas as explored in Chapters 3-5. An epilogue takes the basic conclusion of this section – that all memory is local, and that debate about meaning is likely to be the continuing legacy – and asks if there is an alternative language in which to speak of the Holocaust.

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More information

Published date: November 2011
Organisations: University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 367399
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/367399
PURE UUID: c82c5ea9-ec44-417a-802f-d944c0a063c8

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Date deposited: 23 Oct 2014 12:44
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 01:59

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Contributors

Author: Jaime Ashworth
Thesis advisor: Andrea Reiter
Thesis advisor: Joachim Schloer

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