Authenticity and memory at Dachau

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This essay explores the contradiction that arises between the search for authenticity or historical accuracy and the attempt to ‘express the inexpressible’ in the memory and testimony of concentration camp survivors. Curators at Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site face an impossible demand to present the site as it was in the Nazi period while at the same time allowing for its use as a memorial. However, visitors interact with the exhibits and each other to produce a more open engagement than the designers anticipate and the exhibits themselves often have an unexpected impact. Artefacts in particular seem to have key emotional effects that exceed the impact of their authenticity, as do camp buildings, and the testimony of survivors can provide a disturbing challenge to the values of truth and authenticity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-420
Number of pages16
JournalCultural Values
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2001


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