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Indepth Arts News:

"The Camps: Photographs of the Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camps (1933-1999)"
2001-04-07 until 2001-06-03
Fotomuseum, Winterthur
Winterthur, , CH Switzerland

The images we have in our memories of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps are usually blurred and stereotyped: piles of skeletal bodies, an emaciated face with an unfathomable gaze, barbed wire, watchtowers... All this is wrapped up in a huge and ill-defined iconographic lexicon of infamy.

It has to be said that this is an area where great confusion reigns. Where the deceitful images of Nazi propaganda are unscrupulously juxtaposed with photographs taken when the camps were liberated, and these are in turn shown alongside contemporary images of the camps as and when they were transformed into memorials or museums. Even more problematic is the fact that these images are in most cases published without any details concerning the events shown, without any indication of date or place, and without the name or even nationality of the photographer: they are presented as icons of horror.

Moreover, the treatment of these images has varied considerably over the last half-century and more. In the aftermath of the war, the spontaneous reflex was to show them frequently, without prior precautions or reflection, as if they were self-explanatory. Then, in the years that followed, this pedagogy of horror was replaced by a more controlled dissemination, tempered by the concern for reconciliation with Germany. Today, it would seem that we can begin to try and take a more measured, both critical and analytic look at these images. Indeed, when we bear in mind that, for most of us, these photographs constitute our first encounter with the events of the holocaust and deportation, the need for a historical examination seems all the more pressing.


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