Interpreting the Unthinkable
In September 2018 the UK’s newest Holocaust exhibition opened to the public.
‘Though Our Eyes’ tells the story of the Holocaust as experienced by 16 Jewish men and women who escaped or survived the genocide and made new lives in the north of England. The exhibition is part of the new Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre, a permanent resource created by the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association in partnership with the University of Huddersfield.
Curating a Holocaust exhibition is a unique challenge. The scale of the topic is vast: Nazi Germany and its collaborators persecuted Jewish people in 22 countries across Europe between 1933 and 1945 and eventually murdered six million of them. The Holocaust forces us to confront the worst that humanity is capable of – the perpetrators’ capacity to commit genocide, the willingness of others to ignore or profit from it, the inability of the international community to prevent it, and the stubborn attempts of people then and now to deny that it ever took place. The Holocaust is within living memory, yet at the same time is receding into history as the last survivors age.
All this presented a daunting prospect for the creative team. How could we tell such a complex story within the inevitable confines of budget, time and space? How could we enable visitors to understand individual stories of persecution while at the same time presenting them with a clear historical framework? Most importantly, how could we do justice both to the survivors and their families, many of whom did not survive? HSFA members had entrusted the creative team with their most traumatic memories. Our responsibility to them, their families, and to the six million murdered men, women and children remained at the forefront of our minds.