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Holocaust Memory Reframed

Holocaust Memory Reframed: Museums and the Challenges of Representation

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Holocaust Memory Reframed
    Book Description:

    Holocaust memorials and museums face a difficult task as their staffs strive to commemorate and document horror. On the one hand, the events museums represent are beyond most people's experiences. At the same time they are often portrayed by theologians, artists, and philosophers in ways that are already known by the public. Museum administrators and curators have the challenging role of finding a creative way to present Holocaust exhibits to avoid clichéd or dehumanizing portrayals of victims and their suffering.InHolocaust Memory Reframed, Jennifer Hansen-Glucklich examines representations in three museums: Israel's Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Germany's Jewish Museum in Berlin, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. She describes a variety of visually striking media, including architecture, photography exhibits, artifact displays, and video installations in order to explain the aesthetic techniques that the museums employ. As she interprets the exhibits, Hansen-Glucklich clarifies how museums communicate Holocaust narratives within the historical and cultural contexts specific to Germany, Israel, and the United States. In Yad Vashem, architect Moshe Safdie developed a narrative suited for Israel, rooted in a redemptive, Zionist story of homecoming to a place of mythic geography and renewal, in contrast to death and suffering in exile. In the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Daniel Libeskind's architecture, broken lines, and voids emphasize absence. Here exhibits communicate a conflicted ideology, torn between the loss of a Jewish past and the country's current multicultural ethos. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum presents yet another lens, conveying through its exhibits a sense of sacrifice that is part of the civil values of American democracy, and trying to overcome geographic and temporal distance. One well-know example, the pile of thousands of shoes plundered from concentration camp victims encourages the visitor to bridge the gap between viewer and victim.Hansen-Glucklich explores how each museum's concept of the sacred shapes the design and choreography of visitors' experiences within museum spaces. These spaces are sites of pilgrimage that can in turn lead to rites of passage.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6525-5
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. 1-7)

    In a personal meditation on exile and homesickness titled “How Much Home Does a Person Need?” (1966) the Jewish, Austrian-born Holocaust survivor and essayist Jean Améry writes, “Anyone who is familiar with exile has gained many an insight into life but has discovered that it holds even more questions. Among the answers there is the realization, which at first seems trivial, that there is no return, because the re-entrance into a place is never also a recovery of the lost time.”¹ In the original German, these lines reveal more poignantly the resonant echo between the wordsWieder-eintritt(reentrance) andWiedergewinn...

  6. 1 ZAKHOR: The Task of Holocaust Remembrance, Questions of Representation, and the Sacred
    (pp. 8-26)

    These famous words, attributed to the Ba’al Shem Tov, express the sacred duty of remembrance in Judaism. The dynamics of remembrance and forgetting, belonging and banishment, fairly vibrate in these simple lines, while their epigrammatic conciseness and clarity, combined with a symmetry of expression and poetic commingling of physical and spiritual experience, make them inherently memorable and suited to admonish visitors to a Holocaust museum. The former Yad Vashem: The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Israel chose these words to alert visitors to the duty of remembrance. The quote frames Yad Vashem’s Holocaust narrative within the two opposing...

  7. 2 AN ARCHITECTURE OF ABSENCE: Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum Berlin
    (pp. 27-56)

    Goethe’s famous description of architecture as “frozen music” resonates on a visceral level as one stands before Daniel Libeskind’s zincclad Jewish Museum Berlin for the first time. Across the building’s gleaming surface stretches a series of jagged, disconnected window bands that suggest a fractured Star of David. These fissures in an otherwise smooth surface offer a note of dissonance—a hint of the atonality characteristic of the music of Arnold Schoenberg, whose operaMoses und Aroninspired Libeskind in his design. Although radically different in style, the Jewish Museum Berlin, Yad Vashem, and the USHMM share a fundamental quality—namely,...

  8. 3 ARCHITECTURES OF REDEMPTION AND EXPERIENCE: Yad Vashem and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
    (pp. 57-84)

    While Daniel Libeskind’s Berlin architecture resonates with the image of Berlin as a ruined topography and seeks to preserve traces of that ruin, instability, and uncertainty, architect Moshe Safdie’s Jerusalem architecture resonates with an image of Jerusalem as a palimpsest or a layered topography. The architect emphasizes structures rich with symbolic meaning in terms of their shape, material, style, and near-organic relationship to the landscape.

    Moshe Safdie was born in Haifa, Israel, in 1938. He and his family later emigrated to Canada, and Safdie studied architecture at McGill University. He apprenticed with Louis I. Kahn in Philadelphia and then returned...

  9. 4 THE ARTFUL EYE: Learning to See and Perceive Otherwise inside Museum Exhibits
    (pp. 85-118)

    The third floor of the permanent exhibition of the USHMM displays a large, rectangular photo mural that dominates an entire wall. A photograph of four Jewish Auschwitz survivors from Salonika, Greece, appears in the center of the mural. Three of the men grasp a vertical pole with bare arms, while the fourth leans his cheek upon his open palm. The men stare into the camera with expressions of defiance and sadness; their faces are creased with deep lines. Surrounding these men on all four sides are seventy-two smaller, identically sized rectangular photographs of bare forearms. These arms represent, metonymically, seventy-two...

  10. 5 “WE ARE THE LAST WITNESSES”: Artifact, Aura, and Authenticity
    (pp. 119-148)

    Flying Spice Box, an oil painting by Israeli artist Yosl Bergner (1966), depicts an ornate spice box hovering against an ominously dark sky. Beneath the spice box lies a dusky, low-hanging sun and ruined landscape with a border of crumbling stone walls. The spice box plays a special role in the Havdalah ceremony that marks the end of Shabbat and transitions its participants back into ordinary time. As part of this ceremony, a sweetsmelling spice—often stored in a special spice box—is passed around the table so that each person can share in its scent. The elaborately carved spice...

  11. 6 REFIGURING THE SACRED: Strategies of Disfiguration in String, the Memorial to the Deportees, and Menora
    (pp. 149-182)

    We have seen that Holocaust museums and exhibits draw on a number of unique framing and display strategies to evoke particular kinds of vision and remembrance. One technique not yet discussed—and one of the more unusual strategies for encouraging a critical encounter with symbols of Holocaust remembrance—is the disfiguration of memorial objects or images. Drawing on aesthetic techniques indicative of a postmodern sensibility, disfiguration also helps to prevent the monumentalization of Holocaust memory. In contrast to chapters 4 and 5, which broadly examine objects, images, and display techniques, this chapter focuses exclusively on disfiguration as it appears in...

  12. 7 RITUALS OF REMEMBRANCE IN JERUSALEM AND BERLIN: Museum Visiting as Pilgrimage and Performance
    (pp. 183-214)

    The traditional pilgrim has been the individual who embarks on a hajj to Mecca or who journeys to the banks of the Ganges River, the Dome of the Rock, or the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Such travelers understand their journeys in religious terms, and it was this religious understanding that made their journeys “pilgrimages” rather than simply travel. This understanding has been broadened in recent years to include tourists and their journeys to places that deviate from traditional sites of pilgrimage. Ritual studies scholar Catherine Bell succinctly defines pilgrimage as an activity that possesses a “fundamental ritual pattern of...

  13. CONCLUSION: “Now All That Is Left Is to Remember”
    (pp. 215-218)

    In his article “On Sanctifying the Holocaust: An Anti-theological Treatise” (1987), Israeli philosopher Adi Ophir warns readers that in Israel a “religious consciousness built around the Holocaust may become the central aspect of a new religion” and that this religion may become the “core of Jewish identity in the future, overshadowing the role of traditional Judaism or of contemporary Zionism.” Ophir identifies the most important of the four “commandments” of this new religion as the commandment that dictates duty toward remembrance: “Remember the day of the Holocaust to keep it holy, in memory of the destruction of the Jews of...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 219-234)
    (pp. 235-248)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 249-262)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 263-264)