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Constructing Memory

Architectural Narratives of Holocaust Museums

Stephanie Rotem

This book reveals the critical role of architecture in the assimilation of the ideologies and values conveyed at Holocaust museums around the world. Through the architectural analysis of sixteen museums, social, cultural and political agendas will be unfolded.
While the distance in time and place raises the need to create innovative forms of display to reach an audience removed from the Holocaust, the degree to which this can be done by the museums’ exhibits alone is limited. This book shows that architecture, as an abstract form of expression, plays a major role in the conception of Holocaust museums. By conveying values that cannot otherwise be expressed, the museums’ architecture becomes integral to its narrative and, through it, to the construction of collective memories of the Holocaust.


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I From Ashes to Life: Holocaust Museums in Israel 25


I From Ashes to Life: Holocaust Museums in Israel 26 27 Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and The Ghetto Fighter’s House (GFH) in Kibbutz Lochamei Hageta’ot are the largest and most influential Holocaust museums in Israel. These two museums opened to the public over fifty years ago and are the oldest museums of Holocaust commemoration in the world. They uniquely reflect the changing attitude towards Holocaust remembrance over time. From its inception, Yad Vashem presented itself as the primary national and international author- ity of Holocaust commemoration. The foundation of Yad Vashem is grounded in Israeli law and it is run under governmental supervision. As a national institution, the values conveyed in the museum reflect the Israeli consensus on Holocaust commemoration, representing all victims, survivors, com- munities, and events that are related to the Holocaust. The GFH, in contrast, was established by a group of Holocaust survivors, mainly of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, as a memorial to their fellow fighters. Its founders claim that immediately after the war they had vowed to become the “witnesses of memory and testimony”, attesting to the courage and bravery of the many resistance members who were killed in the uprising. Together they formed a kibbutz and built “The House”56 – a museum and education center, to teach and commemorate the Holocaust and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Other groups subsequently established privately owned Holocaust museums in Israel: namely, the museum at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai and the “Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies” at Kibbutz Tel- Itzhak. These...

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