Beijing brings Holocaust atrocities to China in chilling first exhibition
By Sebastien Blanc ,AFPBEIJING -- Crematorium ovens, gas canisters and images of a gate emblazoned “Arbeit Macht Frei” instantly evoke the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in the West but many Chinese remain ignorant of the Holocaust, which for them is overshadowed by Japanese atrocities before and during World War II.
September 7, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
The first ever exhibition in China devoted to Nazi crimes against humanity has sought to draw more attention to it, with some success: In less than two months, more than 70,000 people visited “Auschwitz: death camp” in Beijing.
Featuring disturbing photographs of victims of Nazi Germany displayed in glass cases along with striped prisoners' outfits — another emblem of the carnage — the exhibition has provided an alternative focus in a country where attention remains fixed on Japan's wartime actions.
There are more than 200 museums and memorials in China dedicated to abuses by the Imperial Japanese Army, assistant curator Li Zongyuan told AFP.
“What shocks most visitors is the fact that the Nazis sent the women and children to the gas chambers,” said Li — before detailing Japanese war crimes such as the sexual slavery of thousands of women or the use of toxic gas.
During their education, Chinese have little opportunity to learn in detail about the crimes of the Third Reich, Hu Dekun, deputy director of the China Society for the Study of the History of World War II, told AFP.
“In the history books in high school, this war is told very briefly, even at university,” said Hu.
Exhibition visitor Yan Jikai, from the northern province of Shanxi, admitted he only became aware of German actions during World War II after watching “The Great Escape,” the 1963 prisoner of war drama starring Steve McQueen.
“I saw this film twice,” he said, before praising the German Chancellor Willy Brandt for kneeling in contrition before a memorial to the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw in 1970.