ROME – A group of Italian students and Nazi concentration camp survivors have created a multimedia exhibition in Rome that documents their collective experience after they visited the Auschwitz camp together.
“Testimonies of Testimonies” – an exhibition that has been curated by a group of young Italian students after they visited the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp in Poland with a group of survivors – tells the harrowing experiences of the persecuted but also connects with the student’s memories of their visit to the camp.
“Sami Modiano asked us to pass the baton and talk about his experience since he may no longer be here in 10 years time so we have a duty to tell what happened, especially his own experience inside the Auschwitz concentration camp,” Marta Bugatti, one of the student organizers of the exhibition told EFE.
A key motivation of the exhibition was to overcome the distance that reading about the Holocaust generates by creating a more intimate environment for the viewer and making the experience more emotional.
The exhibition, which will be on show in the Exhibitions Palace in Rome until March 31, starts in a wooden wagon – a recreation of the transport the German Nazi regime used to transport people to concentration camps.
The experience of being in the wagon is a haunting and frightening one. For eight long minutes punters sit in the dark whilst listening to a sound installation that mixes the voices of Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) and Italian fascist Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) discussing the racial problems of the Jewish community to the backdrop of a chugging train speeding towards the deadly camps.
The immersive sound installation was co-created with Studio Azurroo, a collective of Italian artists who wanted to play with the sensory experiences of visitors.
Speaking of the installation, Bugatti highlighted that if you do not know German there is no way of understanding Hitler’s words, however his tone of voice whilst sitting enclosed in the dark wagon conveys a lot.
Upon exiting the carriage, viewers are presented with a series of photos of some of the people who were taken to Auschwitz, including Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and members of the political opposition.
As visitors continue to walk through the exhibition space they encounter five large dark walls with names and dates engraved on them with the instruction to get closer to them.
Again a sound piece brings the experiences to life, this time with the tales of the survivors that returned to Auschwitz with the Italian students.
“I recall everyone on the train praying. But later, during the last days of the journey, you no longer heard the sound of prayers. Just a silence. A solemn silence. We were awaiting the death of many of us.” the shaky voice of a woman who was transported from Milan to Auschwitz in 1944 explains.
For the students, visiting the camp with survivors was an incredibly powerful and hard experience.
Bugatti explains how “seeing their faces, their tears, hearing their broken voices, being close to the people who experienced this, especially Sami Modiano who took us to the place he last saw his sister,” gave the students an invaluable insight into the horrors of the Holocaust.
As well as telling the story of survivors one segment of the exhibition focuses on how the students felt visiting the camp through a video installation on three screens that reproduces the young people’s memories and the raw emotions they endured in what they label “a new form of memory” of the Holocaust.
The exhibition comes to an end with three self-standing spaces, the first of which explores the design of extermination machinery and the scientific experimentation Nazis carried out within the camps.
The second space explores “lagersprache,” a language that emerged within the camps created by inmates to describe life within the camps.
The third space attempts to revive the individual stripped identities of the countless people who during their time in the Nazi camps were reduced to a sheer number.
It is thought between 15 and 20 million people were imprisoned or died in Nazi concentration and extermination camps between 1933-1945.