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Holocaust Galleries of Hitler’s Horror

I entered the Imperial War Museum with a strong feeling of trepidation. There seemed to be a hushed peacefulness throughout the building, perhaps, reverence. People tried to tread quietly on the stone floors, heads were semi-bowed. And this is as it should be for the opening of the Holocaust Galleries project, writes Michael Holland.

Over £30m has been spent on bringing together over 2,000 items and personal stories from more than 80 countries to create a global narrative of arguably the worst period of the 20th century.

The journey takes you from post-WWI Germany through to the post-WWII diaspora of the European Jews.

©M. Holland

Spread over 3,000 sq.m. the first gallery shows Jewish families leading happy, positive lives in Germany, some are WWI veterans, proud to have fought for their country. Holiday snaps, baby photos, wedding memories; diaries, letters, toys, and smiling faces fill the space. 

Walking through, however, the atmosphere changes. Hitler is not happy at losing the war or with how Germany has sunk so low. Conditions were ripe for his rise to fame and power and having taken leadership of the Nazi Party he looks for someone to blame for the country’s economic collapse. He finds Jews are an easy target.

An agenda of lies and evil propaganda turned the majority of Germans against their Jewish friends and neighbours. Laws were brought in to take away their human rights. Young people were indoctrinated into the Nazi philosophy that claimed Aryan people were better than ‘sub-human’ Jews. Beatings, killings, targeted abuse and more became everyday occurrences.

It was horror after horror for Jews and this was before Hitler had invaded Poland, started a war and instigated the mass killing of the Jewish people, Roma, and the disabled.

The Holocaust Galleries contains artefacts never seen before and displays once-banned photos of Nazi execution squads. It has taken six years to put together with a mission to preserve stories of survivors to ensure the world never forgets the evil that man can do.

This is a very important exhibition and is no less significant now that people with a living memory of those years are becoming fewer all the time.

I have been to see Auschwitz and I will never forget the feeling I left there with. I had that same feeling as I left the Holocaust Galleries.

With antisemitism still around, and the rise of the Far Right the UK’s biggest terror threat, it is vital that young people see this and learn from it, because they will be the leaders and decision makers for the next generation.

Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, SE1 6HZ. Wed – Sun 10am – 6pm. Free Admission but time slots must be booked: www.iwm.org.uk

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