Witnesses of Witnesses. Remembering and recounting Auschwitz

January 26 > March 31, 2019

Staged by Studio Azzurro, from an idea by the Students of the Journeys of Memory
Promoted by
Roma Capitale 
Assessorato alla Crescita culturale
Assessorato alla Persona, Scuola e Comunità Solidale
Azienda Speciale Palaexpo
In collaboration with
Comunità Ebraica di Roma 
Assessorato alla Cultura e Archivio Storico, Assessorato alle Scuole
With the scientific collaboration of
Archivio Storico "Giancarlo Spizzichino" della Comunità Ebraica di Roma CDEC | Fondazione Centro di Documentazione ebraica contemporanea 
Silvia Marinozzi, La Sapienza Università di Roma

Following a memory trip to Auschwitz, the heart of the devastating Shoah that rocked and shocked the 20th century, a group of students from various Rome high schools began to envisage a different way of recalling those horrific events. These boys' and girls' encounter with Studio Azzurro – a well-known Italian artists' collective involved in experimenting with the language of new media – has spawned "Witnesses' Testimonials. Recalling and recounting Auschwitz," the first experiential exhibition designed by students in an institutional space within the capital, to be experienced as an event that urges visitors to undertake a physical and mental journey to keep the memory of the story alive. 

The exhibition tour guides us through the experience, forging a link between the witnesses and future generations.

Groups of people, families of Jewish origin – still united – look out at us from a huge mosaic of photographs at the start of the exhibition.

A narrow space, which visitors are urged to enter, conjures up the cattle trucks used for deportation. The doors slide shut. In the darkness we hear the voices of Mussolini and Hitler, the frenzied chanting of the adoring crowds, and the insistent drumming of the train on the tracks.

The doors open, other faces look in at us, the faces of those who have already crossed the threshold of the concentration camps. On a screen we see the structure of the camp at Auschwitz, where not only Jews but also political prisoners, oppositionists, Sinti and Roma people and homosexuals were interned.

The large walls full of portraits conceal the stories trapped in the camps and in the nooks and crannies of the memory of those who saw and experienced the horror at first hand. The deportees' large faces look out at us, question us, beseech us to remember and to tell.

If you put your ear to the wall, you can hear the voices and stories of the survivors, of those who have taken it upon themselves to tell us of their suffering. Some of the eye-witnesses who came back from Auschwitz accompany younger visitors in their determination to hand the memory down to new witnesses.

Three screens show the faces of the students who thought up and devised the tour and who, with their accounts, are setting in motion this new, yet absolutely crucial, form of memory.

The tour continues with three in-depth analyses: one devoted to the design of the "machinery of extermination" and the planning of scientific experiments; another to the linguistic jargon, the "Lagersprache", that allowed the inmates to survive in a place where failing to understand or to make oneself understood could lead to being shot on the spot; and the third to the attempt to recover the countless identities recorded as mere serial numbers. In this room it is up to the visitor to draw close to the monitors and to help the inmates' lost identity to resurface.