Sunday, after discovering that Westminster isn’t open, a couple girls and I headed to the Imperial War Museum.  I saved the Holocaust Exhibit for the last 30 minutes the museum was open. The dim lighting and black walls create a stark and somber atmosphere for a slow procession through the carefully recreated events surrounding Nazi Germany.

One of the images that stuck out was of a 17 year old girl who’d been hung for attacking a Nazi. She had a sign around her neck describing that she’d been punished for her crimes against Germany. The publicly displayed hanging body was an act of propaganda by Nazi Germany: they wanted to strike fear into the citizens of occupied countries. A dead body instills a much stronger message than posters can.

what is on display in the museum is a picture of the dead body with its message. This picture imparts an entirely different message than the body did; it’s speaking to a different audience for different reasons. The audience for the picture gets the same message of the ruthlessness of the Nazi party, but not to instill fear of their power to destroy the onlooker for rebelling against them, but rather so that the onlooker can better realize what was happening at that moment in history. The picture helps impart a historical perspective, while the actual body communicated an immediate message of potential consequences. The consequences the picture wants you to understand are much more complex. The picture uses the Nazi’s intimidation to reveal their ruthlessness to those who have no firsthand experience of their ideology.

However moving this picture is, the message is so hard to grasp that it requires a setting akin to the Imperial War Museum’s Holocaust Exhibit. The message of the picture resonates powerfully because of the narrative and the hundreds of pictures, documents, and video clips. The horror builds until your soul is chilled, and in that frozen land, certain pictures leave searing imprints.

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