By Douglas Davis
LONDON (June 7) - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II met Holocaust survivors yesterday when she unveiled a plaque to officially open a permanent Holocaust exhibition at the prestigious Imperial War Museum.
The display, which the museum regards as the most important project it has ever undertaken, covers an area of 1,400 square meters and was built with a grant of $25 million from the lottery fund.
The exhibition has taken four years to assemble and traces the rise of Nazism, the effects of antisemitism, and, ultimately, the destruction of much of European Jewry using artifacts, documents, newspapers, posters, photographs, and film.
Among the exhibits are a funeral cart from the Warsaw Ghetto, a railroad car used for the deportation of Jews donated by Belgian Railways, the typewriter used by Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg to produce visas for Hungarian Jews, and battered tin cups and twisted eyeglasses taken from Jews murdered at the Chelmno concentration camp.
Also featured is a rusty Star of David and a sign from the Belzec extermination camp, as well as letters, diaries, toys, and photo albums.
Video testimonies by 18 survivors offer a haunting perspective to the narrative of persecution and slaughter, the collaboration and resistance.
While the main focus is on the persecution of European Jews, other groups such as Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, gypsies, the disabled, and homosexuals are also featured.
British Culture Secretary Chris Smith, who is openly gay, regretted that "many issues raised in this moving and important exhibition are still with us today - those of prejudice, discrimination, and persecution."
"By reflecting on the past," he said, "I hope we can move toward a better, more tolerant community."
British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks described the exhibition as "impressive, restrained, but powerful" and said it would become "a major educational resource as well as a tribute to the memory of the victims.
"The exhibition will stand as a permanent reminder of one of the darkest nights in history and a warning to future generations of the dangers of the politics of hatred."
© Jerusalem Post 2000