Remembrance of Jewish Dutch Population

by Jen Chiappone

Jennifer Hansen-Glucklich discusses how museums, such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington D.C. and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem use portraits and photographs to further (emotionally) connect to their visitors. Hansen-Glucklich focuses on HOW we (the visitor) sees something in a museum and how a museum can organize itself and use certain exhibits to help the visitor to understand meaning.

For those who have not been to the USHMM (go now!!), this museum takes the visitor on a journey through the rise of the Nazi party, through the Holocaust, and ends with the aftermath and remembrance. It fully envelops the visitor. The part that Hansen-Glucklich focuses on in USHMM is the Tower of Faces. These photographs of the Jews in Eishyshok, Lithuania taken from 1890 to 1941 when the German soldiers arrived. Before this in the museum, there are minimal portraits, more objects and text. With these portraits, the visitors get to put a face with the atrocity they have learned about this far into the museum. Once the visitors read the plaque that tells about the Jews from Eishyshok’s fate, the visitor is left wondering about their fate. After reading about their fates, the visitor is brought back from the personal to the “image of a single great catastrophe.” (Hansen-Glucklich 95).

I think the USHMM is a perfect example for the exhibit and museum theories Hansen-Glucklich is implying. This museum is wonderfully set up to surround the visitor with the history, emotions, and tensions that was happening during World War II. Granted there is a lot of reading and text in this museum but the entire museum is the full experience. It starts out with the visitors cramming into a small elevator which is supposed to resemble the crowded train car that the Jews were transported to concentration camps in. This museum is meant to be fully immersible and connect with the visitor with more than just historical facts. The museum tells the visitor when to look in and reflect on what they see after the entire museum. There is a space of remembrance that allows the visitor to light a candle for the Jews from difference concentration camps, regardless of whether they knew someone there or not. The museum connects and controls the visitors emotions and thoughts while in the museum space. This is done with exhibits, films, portraits, and even decorations/architecture. 

Reesa Greenberg takes Hansen-Glucklich’s ideas and focuses it closely to the Jewish museums in Europe that existed before World War II. Greenberg breaks down the variables of tolerance in a museum setting sich include integration, inclusion, representation of women, and the response to genocide (Jewish). While many of the museums discussed date before World War II, all have added large sections on the Holocaust to include either the affected general or local Jewish history.

In “Ajax, the Dutch, the War,” Simon Kuper discusses the forgotten and hidden monuments to the Jews who lost their lives during the Holocaust. As in the Ajax club, the feelings about Holocaust and the lost Jews of World War II are more subdued and something that isn’t really talked about. Besides the Anne Frank House and the Dutch Resistance Museum, not a lot is publicly acknowledged. With this, a lot of history can be lost. A “secret” monument I found is the Monument at the Hollandsche Schouwburg in Amsterdam:

800px-monument_hs.jpg

This monument is located at Hollandsche Schouwburg, is a theater, now Jewish museum, that was deemed by the Nazis a Jewish theater and was later used as a deportation center during the Holocaust. It pays homage to the Dutch Jews that were deported during the Holocaust. This monument and location is something I have never heard about and am eager to know more. This monument is tucked away in the courtyard of  the large museum space and is (probably) often overlooked. Online, there is practically no information on the monument; most is directed towards the building itself.

 

References:

Hansen-Glucklich, Jennifer. “The Artful Eye: Learning to See and Perceive Otherwise inside Museum Exhibits.” Museums and the Challenges of Representation. Rutgers University Press. 2014.

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5 thoughts on “Remembrance of Jewish Dutch Population

  1. I really like your questions, and feel they form a great basis for your essay. When you ask if visitors will ever be able to truly understand the horrors of the holocaust, do you believe that there are any drawbacks to this approach of a museum, were it in fact possible? Second, with the advent of new technologies (they had weird, virtual reality headsets that let you walk through Auschwitz in the USHMM) do you think that these will allow us to better explore our history, or go too far? Regardless, I believe that by delving into your questions, your essay can begin to unwrap the complexity of representing the horrors of our past.

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  2. Thank you for your comments! I believe that The Tower of Faces/Hall of Names works in an opposite way to illicit an emotion from the visitor. The Tower of Faces adds (quite literally) a face to the horrors of the Holocaust, a more personal connection to history. With the exhibit of the concentration camp tattoos, there is less of a personal interaction because the photographee’s face is not seen. This allows the visitor to put their own emotions and experiences into what they are seeing, the people with the camp tattoos could be anyone, even them. Both exhibits, the visitor is left wondering what happened to the people in the photographs. Prof. Troutman, these are great prompting questions and I will reflect on them in my paper.

    After reading “Family Stories or a Group Portrait? South Africa on Display at the KIT Tropenmuseum, 2002-2003: The Making of an Exhibition” by Witz and Rassool, I was left with many questions. The Tropenmuseum, today an ethnographic museum, started out known as the Koloniaal Museum (The Colonial Museum). This raises a few flags for me. How can a museum originally based in colonialism and slavery (and ultimately racism) give an authentic and accurate representations of the cultures on display? The second most important question I have is: How can another race and culture be entirely accurate, with out prejudices or an outsider “lens?” I feel that it is a fine line between authentic, showing the subjects in a true light and what I’m going to call “the lion in the zoo.” Is the museum and its visitors outsiders looking in on a controlled, inauthentic subject?

    This makes me think back on the USHMM and other Jewish historical museums. Are they entirely accurate? Will we, the visitor, ever truly understand what the victims and survivors went through during the Holocaust? This is probably impossible because everyone has a different struggle and experience with the Holocaust. While the USHMM tries to exhibit many first hand accounts, not every story can or will be told. It is a museum’s duty to tell the truth and to be as authentic as possible.

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  3. I’m glad you found that one in Amsterdam! We’ll have to go see it & see what we think of what it does in that space.

    I’m wondering about what you think about specific tactics or techniques Hansen-Glucklich discusses, what you think of her claims about them, and how you think they apply here. For example, does this room of photographs work similarly to or differently from the wall of photographs of arms with their tattoos? Does it disembody them in the same way–and does HG &/or you–think this is a good thing or a bad thing? What do you think about the crowded elevator at the US museum, for example? What exactly is the relationship between the crowdedness it imposes on the visitor vs. the crowdedness of those rail cars of actual victims? Is it supposed to make us feel what they did? Could a museum ever do that? Or is more of a gesture, a physical act that serves as a necessarily imperfect reminder, an act of remembrance?

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  4. I agree that the USHMM fully utilizes the “grammar” discussed in the reading. It is an experience, and is much more than pure content. I really found it interesting how latent the narratives and history of Ajax’s involvement in the Holocaust was. It was a community, and they did their best to take care of their own when they could. If we expect more of our museums and institutions, then how come we don’t hear about these things more?

    I haven’t really responded to many people in the comments section before, but I have to disagree with Aj on this. For starters, I can be an emotional person. However, what is so essential to me is putting myself in someone else’s shoes. This often means learning details about someone, feeling connected to them, and can often result in forming minor attachments to people I don’t even know. To fully understand people’s experiences, sometimes you have to ride the emotional rollercoasters they rode at one point, and while you detach yourself, you remain connected to it. I agree that emotions can get in the way, but a wholistic experience calls for you to go out on a limb, and lose yourself in a different narrative.

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  5. To be completely honest before I start my comments, I haven’t been to the Holocaust Memorial and Museum in years. However, I find historical museums that envelop me as a visitor with emotion and tension distracting to the overall education. I don’t walk away feeling like I learned anything, and while I realize that’s not always the intent of a museum, in specific cases (like this one) I think the education of the visitors is just as important as the emotional connection to the subject matter. This is probably something that was discussed in detail in reference to the direction of the museum, but just a thought to keep in mind for your essay.

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