The National Holocaust Centre and Museum in Nottinghamshire has opened its new interactive exhibition focusing on photography which allows visitors to “step inside” images taken in the Warsaw Ghetto.
‘The Eye as Witness’ exhibit, which will run until 24 March, includes an immersive ‘virtual reality’ (VR) experience letting visitors “walk into a Nazi-produced Holocaust photograph to see the photographer in action”.
It will be touring UK venues including the Imperial War Museum North in Salford, the Bradford Peace Museum, South Hampstead Synagogue, the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, and the Lakeside Arts Centre in Nottingham.
The Nazi propaganda machine generated thousands of staged images of Hitler, but those same photographers also shot photos of Nazi ghettos and concentration camps – the same images often seen in museums and on TV today.
The photos were actually designed to make Holocaust victims appear sub-human, but today they inspire pity rather than disgust.
“They do little justice to the dignity of the victims, nor do they help us realise that the people persecuted and murdered by this regime had often lived perfectly everyday lives only days before the Nazis came to power,” the centre said.
Academics at the University of Nottingham led by Professor Maiken Umbach helped the exhibition show how photos are historical sources created with particular agendas in mind, which need to be critically examined in order to learn their lessons.
“Whilst this is an excitingly creative use of technology to reconsider the past, its purpose is chillingly contemporary,” said the centre’s interim chief executive Marc Cave.
“When you see an image or video posted on Twitter or Facebook today – of a victim of war or member of a particular minority group – ask yourself who recorded it and why. If pictures are worth a thousand words, then fake news is 1,000 times more sinister in photographic form.”