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Holocaust Art at the Imperial War Museum, 1945–2009


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It can be supposed that most people interested in twentieth-century history are familiar with the Imperial War Museum (IWM) and that most will have visited its permanent Holocaust exhibition since this was formally opened in June 2000. What Suzanne Bardgett, the curator who runs the exhibition, calls its ‘artifacts’ cover 1,200 square metres but before 2009 it showed only one piece of ‘art’ indirectly derived from the discovery and liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp by the British Army in April 1945: Edgar Ainsworth’s drawing Wem Berger, Aged 13, after a Year in Ravensbriick (near Bélsen), April 1945 It is not always realised that the IWM has, in fact, many more drawings and paintings connected with what is now known as Holocaust Art. The museum now publishes a history of the ‘hangings’ from which each of these works has benefited and this indicates that, while there were many hangings immediately after the war, there was then a long period of ‘purgatory’ from which these works are only now re-emerging. In a revealing article of 2004, Bardgett suggested that it was the whole issue of representing the Holocaust in the Museum which was taboo until the 1980s.2 Inevitably, the paintings and drawings suffered from this reticence, which largely explains their neglect as an iconographie source for Holocaust studies in Britain.




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Link to article (paywalled), Holocaust Art at the Imperial War Museum, 1945–2009

Bibliographic Information

Capet, Antoine Holocaust Art at the Imperial War Museum, 1945–2009. Britain and the Holocaust: Remembering and Representing War and Genocide. Palgrave Macmillan. 2013: 129-141.  https://archive.jpr.org.uk/9781137350770_8