Two converted sea containers, short animated films, and a modern website: A grant from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media has made it possible to expand the #StolenMemory campaign in 2020 by adding a traveling exhibition.
Our traveling exhibition has been running since August 2020 under the Federal Government Commissioner’s funding program to promote culture in rural areas and travels through numerous small and medium-sized cities (up to 20,000 inhabitants). Since 2021, a second exhibition container has been added, which also travels to larger cities. The exhibition focuses on personal items belonging to former concentration camp prisoners which are displayed on posters and are used to to illustrate the life stories of victims of Nazi persecution.
Since the beginning of the campaign in 2016, the Arolsen Archives have returned more than 500 of these personal effects to the families of victims of Nazi persecution. The items that have been returned are of immeasurable value to the families concerned. They make remembering and remembrance more tangible and are often the last remaining traces of the victims. The Arolsen Archives still have about 2,500 envelopes with personal possessions belonging to people from more than 30 different countries. These items are not part of the archival holdings, but are waiting to be returned to the families.
Container mobilizes exhibition
The exhibition uses posters to tell the stories of victims of Nazi persecution and encourage people to join in the search for their relatives. The main component of the traveling exhibition is a mobile converted sea container whose sidewalls can fold out to provide space for the posters. The architect Stefan Blaas designed it, while construction was carried out by the Berlin “Container Manufaktur”.
On the one hand, the exhibition is about the search for families. Five posters show the property of former prisoners for whom we have not yet been able to find descendants. The stories of successful returns to families are told on five other posters. The relatives have their own say with the help of an augmented reality app. If you download the app and point your smartphone at the poster, you can watch short films where the descendants report on their relatives’ persecution and explain what the returned items mean to them.
In the video, some exhibition visitors describe their impressions of the #StolenMemory Container.
The exhibition is easily accessible and is suitable for young people. Cooperative projects with local institutions, such as schools and associations, are also possible. For example, school pupils can work with biographies and documents and can search for the traces of relatives.
Incidentally, there are no costs for the municipalities – the Arolsen Archives deliver the container and pick it up again. All we need is a good location that has a lot of public traffic. Hence, this is the concept of the traveling exhibition: People “stumble over it” in public spaces and are activated by the personal belongings and fates of victims to deal with the National Socialist persecution and its consequences up to the present day.