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Candid Photos From Auschwitz on Display in Rome

February 23, 2010

Gaia Pianigiani for the  NYT:

Photographs of men and women lying in the sun, amusing themselves in front of a camera, having lunch outside in shirtsleeves. Nothing shocking there. But these images were taken at Auschwitz-Birkenau, while thousands were dying in the notorious German death camp.

When the photographs emerged in late 2006, and then displayed online at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Web site, reaction ran from outrage to fascination. Now those candid images, as well as professional Waffen-SS résumés and other artifacts, are on display at the “Auschwitz-Birkenau” exhibition at Rome’s Vittoriano Complex, through March 21.

The dark and cavernous halls of the Vittoriano (Via San Pietro; 39-06-69-202-049) provide a fitting backdrop for a show that aims to illustrate both the horrors and the everyday mundanity of life in the camp. It also goes beyond the photos to explore the postwar trials that brought some measure of justice.

In one first-floor room, a voice barks out orders in German, while visitors peruse longs lists of the death camp victims. Isolated objects narrate the lives of their former owners: a 2-year-old child’s white dress; worn-out shoes; broken glasses; a faded cloth Star of David. Claustrophobic, low-ceilinged rooms display maps and photos of the camps and the horror perpetrated within. [More]

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