Holocaust lists and the Memorial Museum

Henri Lustiger Thaler


The article looks at Holocaust related death lists in the permanent exhibition of the Bergen-Belsen Memorial Museum. The museum opened to the general public in October of 2007. I argue that Holocaust lists are best understood as memorial objects which project a particular kind of aura. This aura also surrounds the sacral and criminal landscape of Bergen-Belsen, which the lists have come to represent and mediate. It is the relationship of list to landscape that structures their shared auratic resonances, in the interplay between presence (what is documented in the list) and absence (names that have been destroyed, never to be retrieved). In the case of the lists of Bergen-Belsen this is even more nuanced, in that there were two landscapes where the detritus of the genocide unfolded: the iconic mass graves of Belsen and the displaced persons camp, several kilometers down the road from the concentration camp, where the sick and dying were transported after the liberation. Given that there is no original list of the dead in the mass graves of the concentration camp, the death lists in the displaced persons camp take on a more complex memorial meaning. In conclusion, I make the argument that the memorial experience of Bergen-Belsen is a useful template from which to view other transnational sites of destruction and crimes against humanity.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Henri Lustiger Thaler

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360

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