Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial opens a new museum on Tuesday. It aims to teach people about the Nazi genocide of the Jews in an era when there will be no survivors left to bear witness. The concept is to recount history in a highly personal way, through books, diaries, and photographs. Yehudit Inbar in the museum’s curator:
“In the new historical museum in Yad Vashem we are telling the story of the Holocaust on two levels. The first level is the story of the Nazis, but we want to focus on the Jewish point of view, on the Jewish story of the Holocaust and that is what is actually new about our museum.”
Nine themed galleries chronologically trace Jewish life in Europe from the pre-Nazi era through the Final Solution and beyond to a new beginning for many survivors in Israel.
To personalise the events, the museum’s team wove together first-hand accounts using possessions from survivors and victims. They hope this will stop the Holocaust one day being confined to the pages of history books.
Yad Vashem, a regular stop on the itineraries of foreign politicians, has become overshadowed by more innovative museums abroad and has begun to feel the challenge of preserving the memory of the Holocaust. The philosophy of the new site is summed up in the Hall of Names, where photographs and names of three million victims surround a watery abyss.
The building was designed by the celebrated Israeli architect Moshe Safdie. At the end of a long maze-like structure meant to represent Jewish suffering, visitors reach the light and breath-taking views of Jerusalem – as if to symbolise salvation in Israel.