Before Eichmann: Holocaust Exhibitions and the ‘Myth of Silence’

In a fine example of the interdisciplinary nature of Jewish Studies, on Wednesday 25 September 2013 Dr Steven Cooke (Deakin University) will be giving a talk entitled

Before Eichmann: Holocaust Exhibitions and the ‘Myth of Silence’

Much recent work in the historiography of the Holocaust has challenged the ‘myth of silence’, the supposed post-war reticence of Holocaust survivors to speak about their traumatic experiences.  A major focus of this work has been on examining the ‘sheer volume of talking, recording, writing, representation in various media, and publishing’ (Cesarani and Sundquist 2011: 10) that went on in the two decades after the Second World War.  However, little work to date has explored museum displays for what they can add to the reappraisal of this period.

This paper examines the origins, development and reception of the Warsaw Ghetto Exhibition held in London 1961.  Created by renowned graphic designer George Him and sponsored by among others the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the exhibition is a site through which complex debates over Anglo-Jewish identity and memory of the Holocaust can be understood.  It shows how representations of the Holocaust were shaped by both local concerns and an emerging global network of information, artefacts, people, and institutions involved in remembrance. It explores the politics of the development of the exhibition, the poetics of its displays, the part played by survivors and the plans to tour the exhibition both nationally and internationally.

In addition, by recreating the biography of two concentration camp uniforms shown in the 1961 exhibition and now currently on display in the Imperial War Museum, it situates the exhibition within a longer historical context, adding to a nuanced reading that unsettles the established narratives of the development of memory of the Holocaust in the UK.

Dr Cooke’s talk forms part of the Geography department’s seminar programme for 2013-14 (more details available here).


12.30 p.m.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Building 44, Room 1057 (Lecture Room B)

All welcome!

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