Art Exhibit Review: AUSCHWITZ. NOT LONG AGO. NOT FAR AWAY. (International Tour at The Castle in Boston)

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by Leslie Rosenberg on May 9, 2024

in Art and Museums,Theater-Boston,Tours

“With each son I had, I felt like I was giving Hitler the middle finger!”

The special event began with a psalm and prayers from Rabbi Noah Cheses, followed by local Holocaust survivor Kati Preston speaking powerfully about her survival, her strength, and the importance of Holocaust education. Hers is the saucy quote above. The program ended with a touchingly beautiful performance by the Yiddish choral ensemble, A Besere Velt (A Better World).

Tatiana Barbakoff (1899-1944), ballet and Chinese dancer murdered at Auschwitz
(Berlin c. 1925 1932 - Wiener Holocaust Library Collections)

I spent well over four hours in the exhibit, but I still feel that it wasn’t enough to experience all there was to see. I say “experience” because I don’t think anyone can keep some of those emotional images out of mind — or out of heart.

Once you enter, you’re handed a set of headphones which are connected to a device that plays recorded information which coincides with different numbers on the walls. The numbers are linked to the different subjects, and provide a supplement to the writings on display; this helps to alleviate museum fatigue.

The exhibit is divided into several sections, each section a moment in time and survival, some filled with such atrocities that you can’t believe it’s real — I was almost overwhelmed by the horrific images and artifacts around me: A pair of black SS boots standing close to a picture of a mound of gold that had come from the charred tooth remains of murdered victims in the ovens; A child’s sweater sitting on top of a trash pile, only to be recognized by his sister many months later; Several pairs of hanging black-and-white striped pajamas with a yellow star attached; A bag stuffed full of human hair; A photograph of “Angel of Death” SS physician Josef Mengele holding innocent identical twins in his arms, planning yet another one of his inhumane, and often deadly, medical experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz.

The many pictures, the stories, the videos, are palpable. It got so real that I could almost smell the noxious stench of burning flesh while listening to the crackles of the leaping flames. The exhibit is recommended for those 14 years of age or older, but with everything kids see on the internet these days, I wonder if younger kids can handle it. That’s clearly up to you to decide, but remember, one of the greatest lessons we can teach is what happens when we don’t speak up. Silence is the voice of complicity.

Personally, I was inspired to write a poem, “Reflections”:

I don’t recall a baby doll there,
Nor a toy, not even a stuffed bear
A childhood snuffed away by the oven’s flame
A life full of potential, now who is to blame?

photos © Musealia by Bartosz Bartyzel

Auschwitz. Not Long Ago. Not Far Away.
The Saunders Castle at Park Plaza, 130 Columbus Ave
on display until September 2, 2024
for tickets and future tour dates and cities, visit Auschwitz: The Exhibit

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