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The Holocaust and Colonial Genocide at the Imperial War Museum


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Relatively little comment has been passed on the role of the Holocaust at the Imperial War Museum (IWM). There is a critical discourse about the role of the exhibition in the museum of course, and Rebecca Jinks’s and Antoine Capet’s essays contribute admirably to that discourse, yet the specific question of the relationship between thinking about the Holocaust and thinking about Empire and imperial genocide has seldom been asked. Yet as Jinks’s essay makes clear, Britain has an imperial past and as such it is not possible for the Holocaust exhibition to just avoid that context. It would be very difficult anywhere in Britain, but in the IWM, the official repository of the nation’s war memories, it is impossible. What is more, the IWM specifically tasks itself, in its Crimes Against Humanity exhibition, to engage with genocide in a wider context and as such to place the Holocaust in that context. And the British Empire was a site of genocide. One might expect then to find that the IWM grapples with the problem of genocide in the British Empire (in Australia, in Ireland, in India for example). It does not. As such, I want to use this commentary to think more about the relationship between the galloping British memory of the Holocaust that Capet identifies, and Britain’s memory of genocide in its Empire that Jinks highlights, using the IWM as a case study.




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Link to article (paywalled), The Holocaust and Colonial Genocide at the Imperial War Museum

Bibliographic Information

Lawson, Tom The Holocaust and Colonial Genocide at the Imperial War Museum. Britain and the Holocaust: Remembering and Representing War and Genocide. Palgrave Macmillan. 2013: 160-168.  https://archive.jpr.org.uk/https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137350770_10