Shortly after World II ended, Auschwitz—the Nazi camp where 1.1 million prisoners, most of them Jewish, were murdered—was established as a museum that would preserve the site's painful history for future generations. Since then, visitors have traveled to Oświęcim, Poland to experience the moving exhibits firsthand. Now, for the first time since its founding, the museum is bringing its artifacts to international audiences in a traveling exhibition.
As Smithsonian reports, the tour will make stops in seven European cities and seven North American cities over the next seven years. The exhibition will include at least 600 artifacts pulled from the collection at the Auschwitz museum as well as additional objects loaned by other institutions, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem.
Visitors to the exhibition will find sobering displays of a gas mask and a camp barracks as well as more personal items like letters and a blanket that belonged to a Holocaust survivor.
More than 2 million people visited Auschwitz in 2016, but the museum hopes to share its contents with those who are unable or unmotivated to make the trek to the original site. The exhibition comes at a time when ignorance and in some cases flat-out denial of the Holocaust is on the rise in Europe and the U.S. Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum director Piotr M. A. Cywiński said in a press statement:
"Today, the world is moving in uncertain directions. That is why we need to rely more and more on the strong foundations of our memory. Auschwitz and the tragedy of the Shoah are part of those foundations, which cannot be bypassed in creating a new face of the world."
The exhibition, subtitled "Not long ago. Not far away," will begin its tour in Madrid by the end of 2017.