The Evidence Room has a historical context and a point of origin.
The historical context is that of World War II. Between 1933 when they took power in Germany and the end of the war in 1945, the Nazi regime and its Axis collaborators perpetrated what is now called The Holocaust.
This was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored, meticulously-planned, brutally-executed persecution and murder of six million Jews, and five hundred thousand Roma, people with disabilities, Poles, Russians and other Slavic people, Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals. Men, women, and children.
During the war, attempts were made to keep it a secret. After the war, efforts were made by the perpetrators and their apologists to deny the mass murder. This was the beginning of Holocaust denial.
The point of origin is a legal case tried in London and decided in 2000.
It started when a Holocaust denier falsely claimed there were no gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps, and therefore no Holocaust. He tried to dismiss all survivor testimony as distorted by time and trauma.
In a 1993 book, American historian Deborah Lipstadt exposed these deliberate lies to the clarifying light of truth.
She accurately described him as a Holocaust denier.
He sued Lipstadt for libel, but his misrepresentations were debunked in court. Fifty-five years after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
At the trial, architectural historian Robert Jan van Pelt, an expert witness, presented blueprints, plans, drawings, orders, and communications between Nazi officials and architects, electricians, carpenters, and building contractors. Drafted during World War II, they were unaffected by time or trauma.
This architectural forensic evidence demonstrated in unambiguous detail the design, construction, and operation of gas chambers and crematoria as killing machines in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most lethal of the German death camps of the Second World War.
The British High Court of Justice found this evidence to be irrefutable proof of the atrocities, the crimes against humanity, the mass murders that constituted the Holocaust.
Deborah Lipstadt was vindicated and victorious. The court determined that she had told the truth.
The Nazis built and used gas chambers. For one purpose. Genocide, the deliberate mass murder of Jews and other innocent people. Non-combatants. Not soldiers. Unarmed civilians.
The Court found that the denial of this truth was a deliberate, calculated deception in support of an ideology of division and dehumanization.
The Holocaust denier was thus publicly declared by the Court to be a fraud, a falsifier of history, a racist and an anti-Semite. His credibility and his career were left in ruins. He was bankrupted by the verdict and the cost of Court-ordered payments. He later spent time in jail in Austria for Holocaust denial. After his release from prison, he resumed peddling the same lies.
Robert Jan van Pelt told this story in his 2002 book “The Case for Auschwitz.”
Deborah Lipstadt recounted it in her 2006 book “History on Trial.”
It was depicted in a 2016 feature film, “Denial,” starring Rachel Weisz.
Architectural historian Robert Jan van Pelt, and architects Anne Bordeleau and Donald McKay, conceived and created The Evidence Room at the School of Architecture of the University of Waterloo for the 15th annual Venice Architecture Biennale, where it was exhibited from 28 May to 27 November 2016 in Venice, Italy.
From 25 June 2017 to 3 September 2018, The Evidence Room was displayed at The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
The Evidence Room Foundation was created in 2019 to maintain and exhibit The Evidence Room.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden exhibition in Washington, DC of The Evidence Room from 12 June to 8 September 2019 marks its United States debut.
Holocaust denial continues to this day.