Review and Reckoning
The Evidence Room is created of steel, wood, and plaster, arranged to form a symbolic room and immersive experience. Everything inside is silent. Every surface is bone white. Absent of sound, color, motion.
The stark absence summons a presence that cannot be denied. Texture and depth are revealed.
Shapes become discernible. Monuments and casts define and fill the room, drawing the gaze of active seekers and finders of fact. Truth, the stubborn existence of objective reality. Unadorned, unvarnished, unbiased.
The elements of the room are crafted physical representations, not archeological finds.
They allude to the architectural forensic evidence presented to The British High Court of Justice in 2000 in the Lipstadt trial. Fashioned evocations of the evidence that the Court judged to be undeniable proof of atrocities committed at Auschwitz-Birkenau during World War II.
Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most lethal of the German death camps, remains central in the collective consciousness to what we now call The Holocaust.
THE THREE MONUMENTS
The scale models of the outside and inside of a gas chamber door reveal modifications made during the course of the war to maximize the capacity for murder. Architects repeatedly revised plans to increase killing speed and efficiency.
One prime example was the repurposing of morgues into gas chambers.
Gas chambers require different design elements than morgues, so the architects redesigned the doors. They removed handles from the inside and installed latches to lock them from the outside. That way, prisoners could be trapped inside, and only the guards could open and close the doors.
The hinges were adjusted and repositioned to swing the doors outward, so that they could be opened even with 2,000 corpses crushed against them.
A peep-hole allowed SS guards to see that everyone inside was dead before entering the room to dispose of the corpses. They screened the peep-hole with steel mesh on the inside so panicking victims could not break the glass.
The Wall Hatch and Ladder
At two above-ground gas chambers, guards climbed ladders that leaned against the outer walls to access airtight hatches devised by the architects and introduce pelletized cyanide gas into the chambers. With this system, each above-ground gas chamber could be used to kill 2,000 human beings every two days.
The Gas Column
The architects designed innovative, rectangular, floor-to-ceiling gas columns for use in two underground gas chambers.
Deadly cyanide-based Zyklon B was placed in a basket suspended on a chain. This was lowered through an airtight hatch in the roof, into an inner steel mesh column, down into the gas chamber, where the poison was released. A strong outer steel mesh column protected the apparatus.
Four columns were constructed in each killing room.
Fifteen minutes after SS guards introduced the poison, the 2,000 people packed into the chamber would die. The basket was lifted out, and the remaining poison removed and disposed.
The column system added speed and efficiency to the killing machines. Ventilators were added to the rooms, to clear the poison air and allow the chambers to be reentered and corpses removed more rapidly. These gas chambers could be reused every day, twice as often as the wall hatch system.
In the last months of the war, the SS removed the columns and eradicated the gas chambers with explosives, destroying evidence to sustain the lie that is Holocaust denial. It is a lie repeatedly retold and repeatedly repudiated.
THE PLASTER CASTS
Plaster replicas of architectural plans, bills, receipts, survivors’ drawings, and photographs of the camp depict the many exhibits presented as evidence at the Lipstadt trial.
Plaster is a traditional material in crime scene investigation and the preservation of forensic evidence. The defining characteristics of plaster as white, ghostly, textured, and heavy, make this material particularly effective, crucial for safeguarding the evidence embodied by The Evidence Room.
Poured as a liquid, plaster embraces every detail, fills the void of the mold, brings back the past. Long after the inevitable passing of individuals with personal memories, plaster casts persist.
Light falling on the casts raises details in high relief, casting ethereal shadows. Recovered history is made legible, thwarting any attempts to rewrite or wipe it clean.
The Evidence Room endures. The truth will not be erased.