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Understanding the Holocaust through the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Jeffrey Karl Ochsner
Journal of Architectural Education (1984-)
Vol. 48, No. 4 (May, 1995), pp. 240-249
DOI: 10.2307/1425386
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1425386
Page Count: 10
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Understanding the Holocaust through the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
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Abstract

The opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum attracted significant attention in both the popular and the architectural press. This attention and the continuing large numbers of visitors to the Holocaust Museum raise significant questions involving both the paradoxes inherent in the museum as a building type and the particular difficulties in creating a museum specific to the Holocaust. This article addresses a single question: How do visitors come to understand the reality of the Holocaust as they pass through the museum? The focus is primarily on the exhibit sequence, although the building is also discussed. In particular, this article focuses on the question of the "distance" in time and context between the museum's visitors and those who were participants in the Holocaust. I argue that the psychological phenomenon described as "identification" is critical in overcoming this distance in the Holocaust Museum experience.

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