Netanyahu vows: never another Auschwitz

2013-06-13 17:25
The exhibition SHOAH at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Block 27 during the opening of a new pavilion at the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, in Oswiecim, Poland. (Czarek Sokolowski, AP)

The exhibition SHOAH at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Block 27 during the opening of a new pavilion at the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, in Oswiecim, Poland. (Czarek Sokolowski, AP)

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Auschwitz - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday opened a new Holocaust exhibition at the former Auschwitz death camp, vowing Israel would do everything to prevent another genocide of the Jewish people.

Sixty-five years on, "the only thing that has truly changed is our ability and our determination to operate in order to defend ourselves and to prevent another Holocaust," he said.

Netanyahu's comments came a day after he accused Tehran of planning another Holocaust, by developing nuclear weapons with the aim of destroying Israel.

"This is a regime that is building nuclear weapons to annihilate Israel's six million Jews," he said following talks with Polish counterpart Donald Tusk in Warsaw on Wednesday.

Israel "will not allow this to happen. We will never allow another Holocaust."

While saying that Israel should be eliminated, Tehran insists that its nuclear facilities are for peaceful purposes.

On Thursday, Netanyahu also accused the Allies of failing to act over the Nazi death camps.

They "understood full well what was happening in the death camps. They were requested to act, they could act, but they didn't," he said.

Netanyahu spoke after touring the new exhibition that was curated by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust institute and features powerful visuals which put the killings at Auschwitz into the larger context of the Holocaust.

Black-and-white

The Israeli leader previously visited the former Nazi camp - now a memorial and museum run by Poland - in 2010 for the 65th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet troops.

Funded in part by Israel, the new "Shoah" or Holocaust exhibition is one of several national exhibitions at Auschwitz.

Israel's original display dated back to the communist era.

Located in Block 27, one of the red brick buildings that held the camp's prisoners, the new exhibition has a black-and-white colour scheme. It also uses a minimalist multimedia approach to show that what happened in Auschwitz from 1940-1945 - where around 1.1 million people were killed - was not an isolated event.

The Nazi's World War II genocidal "Final Solution" claimed the lives of six million of pre-war Europe's 11 million Jews.

The gallery contents range from a 360° cinematic montage of Jewish life before the Holocaust to a room-length Book of Names listing details of 4.2 million victims.

In one dark room, screens hanging from the ceiling project footage from Nazi Germany, including Adolf Hitler gesticulating madly while delivering a speech, as speakers blast Nazi chants.

From there, the atmosphere changes drastically as the visitor moves into a room showing the consequences of the anti-Semitism.

"As you can see, we left the room with a lot of noise and we entered into total silence. And this was done on purpose," Yad Vashem director and exhibition curator Avner Shalev said.

Extermination camps

The silent white room displays an enlarged map of Europe entitled the "Geography of Murder" showing all the extermination camps and sites where Jews were killed.

Nearby screens project photos of piles of bodies and skeletal, starving prisoners for a powerful display of how the systematic murder was carried out.

"It motivates you to think and rethink what does it mean... It gives you a push to think deeper. To maybe take some personal responsibility about your life," Shalev told AFP.

A highlight of the exhibition, one he calls the "heaviest part", is a room devoted to the 1.5 million Jewish children killed in the Holocaust.

It is empty save for small pencil drawings sketched directly onto the white walls at a child's eye-level.

Israeli artist Michal Rovner sorted through 6 000 drawings by children who died in the Holocaust and selected fragments to copy onto the walls, without "correcting or improving them".

They include depictions of houses, trains, soldiers, hangings, flowers and are not framed or behind glass but "brought back to the present time".

"My desire was to give them presence again, in the place that really tried to erase them from the world," Rovner told AFP, with historical recordings of children streaming in the background.

Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel  |  poland  |  holocaust

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