The Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, London

Leisurely browsing the Imperial War Museum's website this evening, I was shocked to learn that the London branch of the museum will be closing for six months at the beginning of 2013 for a full redevelopment, expected to be completed in 2014.
I have been to the Imperial War Museum on numerous occasions, once at a Holocaust Educational Trust event to give a speech to Holocaust survivors, too. It is a fantastic museum, with rich resources and interactivity aimed at all different age groups. You cannot fail to be impressed as you walk into the main atrium where a large collection of buses, tanks and rockets stand. The temporary exhibitions have been extremely interesting in recent years, too; from a 'Horrible Histories' World War One display to artefacts salvaged from 9/11, including a horribly twisted part of the structure of one of the Twin Towers right in front of you, not even behind glass, the Museum has always had something to offer. I will be sad to see it close, even if it is just temporarily.

Given the nature of this blog, however, it will come as no surprise that I would like to recommend each and every reader to visit the Museum's permanent Holocaust Exhibition if possible, before it is put into storage. If you cannot get to real sites involved in the Holocaust, such as Auschwitz (or feel it would be too mentally challenging, which is understandable) then this is a brilliant exhibition to visit. I have visited the exhibition three times, the first time being a sort of mental preparation for visiting Auschwitz once again in 2009.
The exhibition takes you right from the Nazis' growing influence and rise to power in pre-war Germany to the liberation of the concentration camps at the end of World War Two. Documents, videos and artefacts are superbly presented together to give the viewer a true understanding of their significance. Pre-recorded testimonies from 18 Holocaust survivors are also played at different points around the exhibition to give a more individual feel to the displays.
This exhibition, it should be noted, does not flinch from graphic descriptions and pictures. Indeed, its disturbing nature means children under 14 are not recommended to view the exhibits, and children are under 11 are simply not allowed to enter. Towards the end of the exhibition there is actually a bypass so that you can leave early. This means you can skip the section on Auschwitz, the glass case full of shoes from camps such as Majdanek, descriptions of medical experiments on prisoners and the nauseating images of corpses being thrown into pits in videos documenting the liberation of camps like Bergen-Belsen. The exhibition requires a strong stomach and a real will to understand just what the Nazis did to their innocent victims, but the knowledge and experience you will gain from it is invaluable. I cannot recommend it enough.

In practical terms, the Imperial War Museum London is easy to get to (a short walk from Lambeth North Underground station, and served well by local bus routes). General admission to the Museum - and the Holocaust Exhibtion - is free. So as to keep visitors moving and for ethical reasons, photography is not allowed inside the exhibition.

If you can make the journey to the Imperial War Museum before it closes, please do!