Will We Remember

Without direct life experience, is it possible to comprehend, yet alone understand the Holocaust?  Most people know that the Holocaust was horrifying, unbelievable, and unimaginable. These events took place over 70 years ago. Even though former Nazis are still indicted, a 94-year old low-level guard at Auschwitz was charged with war crimes in June 2016, do these announcements ripple in our consciousness?


My photographs of Auschwitz – Birkeneau challenge us to struggle to understand. Going beyond historical clarity, the images ask us to create mental images, to conjure horrors, and to penetrate facts and information. In these photographs can you hear the sounds, can you smell the odors, can you feel the fear? These images are passageways, windows to another dimension, asking us to penetrate the historical shrouds of the extermination camps.


Cognitive psychology informs us that deeper learning and remembering comes through active intellectual engagement. To learn, comprehend, and retain knowledge the learner needs to engage in a process. Much of our experience in viewing photographs is passive by nature, walking around a gallery, browsing images online, or leafing through a photography book.


Here, none of us directly experienced these horrors. We have no personal memories to confront, no traumatic wounds to expose from our personal experience. Yet, if we cannot confront reality, how can we truly remember? 


At Auschwitz – Birkeneau, it is possible to begin to fully comprehend the energy, organization, resources, will, and hatred possessed by the Nazis that drove the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question (die Endlösung der Judenfrage)," the annihilation of Europe's Jews.  How do you fathom the industrial scale, the scope, the planning, and the determination to undertake the killing of over 6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews?

This exhibit asks you to create your own memories, to construct personal connections, to actively ponder the Holocaust. Use these photographs as portals, go there – confront, wept, imagine. Unless we do, we will forget!