Lonely Planet Writer

Auschwitz’s first global travelling exhibition opens in Madrid

Madrid is the first stop on the first global tour featuring exhibits and artefacts from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

Wooden box crafted in Auschwitz by Polish prisoner Bronisław Czech. Photo by Pawel Sawicki © Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum – Musealia

The exhibition was created and designed by a team of historians and researchers in Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and will contain more than 600 original objects, many of which will be on display for the first time after undergoing a painstaking restoration process.

These include an original freight wagon, which would have been the type of train to transport people to the extermination camps. There will also be personal items from both the victims and the perpetrators, previously unpublished documents and elements from the camp itself.

Last year more than two million people visited the concentration camp’s museum and the aim of this tour is to make this harrowing history a concrete reality to even more people, summing it up in the description of being “not long ago, not far away”. It explores the camp both in the physical sense through personal stories and also in a more symbolic role as a living testament to some of humanity’s greatest atrocities.

Group of visitors at Auschwitz I. Photo by Pawel Sawicki © Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum – Musealia

The curators hope being in such close proximity with this dark history will allow people to understand how a place like Auschwitz came to exist, what it means for humanity and hopefully help prevent such a tragedy from occurring again. The museum director Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, believes this has even more relevance in 2017.

“Today, the world is moving in uncertain directions” he said in a statement. “That is why we need to rely more and more on the strong foundations of our memory. This exhibition, which people in many countries will have the opportunity to see, can become a great warning cry for us all against building the future on hatred, racism, anti-Semitism and bottomless contempt for another human being.”

The official opening of the Auschwitz travelling exhibition at Madrid. Photo by Musealia

Sadly the organisers have already been targeted on social media by anonymous commentators, including from people denying the existence of the Holocaust. The negative reaction, however, has only strengthened the organisers’ determination that the world needs to get closer to the reality of these extermination camps.

The touring Auschwitz exhibition plans to visit seven cities in Europe and seven in North America. The Madrid exhibition opens 1 December and will run until 17 June 2018 at the Arte Canal Exhibition Centre. The exhibition is open seven days a week from 10am to 8pm and admission is €7 including a free audio guide and school groups can visit for free.