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The Italian Memorial At Auschwitz: An Approach Through Conservation Theory*

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AbstractAccording to Bruno Zevi, the Italian Memorial housed at Block 21 of the Auschwitz concentration camp is among the most significant works of contemporary architecture. Recently, it has become the focus of a political and cultural conflict that is itself worthy of study. The memorial was designed as a post-war symbol of the anti-Fascist movement. It is thus heavily influenced by the politics of the Resistance, which characterized the First Republic and influenced the Italian Constitution. However, this sort of politics is incompatible with the post-Berlin-Wall narrative that the Museum of Auschwitz on the international level, along with various Italian governments on the national level, have decided to promote in the twenty-first century. Yet the Italian Memorial is an integral part of the World Heritage UNESCO site at Auschwitz, and its removal or transfer elsewhere, besides constituting a loss for Italian cultural identity, would also vitiate and downgrade the history of Auschwitz. This study looks at the memorial in terms of the discipline of conservation, applying principles elaborated by the Vienna School (Alois Riegl and Max Dvořák) to show how new exhibitions for the pavilions threaten to transform Auschwitz from a monument and historical document into a museum-style fairground, and to reveal the political motivation behind claims of the Memorial’s contemporary irrelevance.

Affiliations: 1: Brera AcademyMilan

10.1163/18718000-12340009
/content/journals/10.1163/18718000-12340009
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/content/journals/10.1163/18718000-12340009
2012-01-01
2016-12-09

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