"Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away" exhibition opened at the Reagan Library in California
The exhibition 'Auschwitz. Not Long Ago. Not Far Away' created by the Museum and the Spanish company Musealia was opened at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California's Simi Valley. More than 30,000 people purchased presale tickets, and the exhibition is expected to be the most attended in the library’s history. The official opening ceremony on 23 March 2023 was hosted by CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer.
‘In 1983, President Reagan spoke to Jewish Holocaust survivors and pledged that "we will never shut our eyes, never refuse to acknowledge the truth, no matter how unpleasant." This exhibition is a testament to his promise,' said John Heubusch, Executive Director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. ‘Confronting the darkest moments in mankind’s history is often difficult, but also profoundly moving and instructive. Our hope is that as many as possible make their own pledge to visit this exhibition,’ he added.
„Auschwitz. Not Long Ago. Not Far Away” depicts the successive stages of the development of Nazi ideology and describes the transformation of Oświęcim, an ordinary Polish town where Nazi Germany established the largest concentration camp and extermination center during the occupation, where approximately one million Jews and tens of thousands of people of other nationalities were murdered.
The victims of Auschwitz also included Poles, Roma and Sinti, Soviet prisoners of war and other groups persecuted by Nazi ideology, such as people with disabilities, asocials, Jehovah's Witnesses and homosexuals. Furthermore, the exhibition includes objects portraying the world of the perpetrators - the SS men who created and managed this largest German Nazi concentration and extermination camp.
Underlining the importance of the exhibition, the director of the Auschwitz Memorial Dr. Piotr Cywiński said: ‘We are approaching the 80th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. In our world, the rhetoric of antisemitism and other ideologies of hatred is once again intensifying. Therefore, we must constantly remind ourselves of the evil that is possible when societies allow such hatred.’
In his opinion, the exhibition nowadays has a unique meaning as it does not only commemorate the past: ‘Russia's barbaric invasion of sovereign Ukraine clearly shows how much the world needs historical memory to be a lasting and clear warning. Auschwitz was a far too painful experience, so the free world today could tolerate any symptoms of a policy of hatred, aggression, and dehumanization. Remembrance must be the key to building a peaceful and just world. This exhibition allows us to shape such remembrance,’ he emphasized.
The exhibition "Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away." was created in collaboration between Musealia and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. The curators of this unique exhibition are international experts: Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt, Dr. Michael Berenbaum, and Dr. Paul Salmons, who worked closely with historians and curators from the Auschwitz Museum Research Center headed by Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz.
‘It can be difficult to comprehend the enormity of the Holocaust from a history textbook alone. This was part of the impetus behind this project: to bring visitors into an immersive space where they can confront the true reality of the Nazi regime and learn from their experience here,’ said Luis Ferreiro, Director of Musealia. ‘We encourage visitors to take their time to process the powerful and devastating artifacts on display in the exhibition and leave with a new perspective that they can apply to their daily lives,’ he added.
On 12,500 sq. ft. exhibition space, the visitors will see several hundred items, mainly from the Auschwitz Memorial Collection. These include personal items belonging to the victims, such as suitcases, glasses and shoes. The exhibition will also include concrete posts forming part of the Auschwitz camp fence; fragments of the original barrack for prisoners in Auschwitz III-Monowitz; a desk and other items belonging to Rudolf Höss, the first and longest-serving commandant of Auschwitz; a gas mask used by the SS; and a lithograph depicting a prisoner's face by Pablo Picasso.
Additionally, the exhibition features individual objects on loan from more than 20 institutions, museums, and private collections worldwide, including Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Wiener Library, and the Buchenwald Mauthausen and Sachsenhausen and Westerbork memorial sites.
A Model 2 freight car used during deportations of Jews to ghettos and extermination centers in German-occupied Poland can be in the library’s main courtyard.
The presentation of the exhibition in Reagan Library was possible thanks to cooperation with World Heritage. ‘I truly believe this is one of the most moving and essential exhibitions of our generation, and its tenure at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library speaks to this. Not only is it worth visiting, whether you are near or far, but it is worth returning to and considering deeply: this is not just an exhibition, but a story of horror and of survival,' said WHE President John Norman.
More information about the exhibition and tickets: www.ReaganLibrary.com/Auschwitz.
Previously, the exhibition "Auschwitz. Not so long ago. Not so far away." was in Madrid, New York, Kansas City and Malmö.