MEMORY AND EXPERIENCE, THE AUSCHWITZ CASE

ARTICLES

10JUN 2021
# TITLE: MEMORY AND EXPERIENCE, THE AUSCHWITZ CASE
# STUDENTS: Gkouma Ifigeneia
# SUPERVISOR: Stavros Stavridis
# DATE: 2020
# COURSE: Research Thesis
# SCHOOL / DEPARTMENT: School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens

Memory < «μιμνήσκω»: remember

Memory : the ability of the subject to remember.

The concept of Μemory has occupied a great amount of scholars from Ancient times until today, mostly during the 20th century after the two World Wars, when more and more people started writing about it. The operation of the mechanism of Memory and Oblivion has been studied mostly in cases of traumatic events, that is, how the brain receives stimuli from the external environment, translates and stores them for a different period of time, each in different parts of the brain, depending on their importance.

Memory is connected with space, on the grounds that memories are registered to it, with monuments being the most usual special representation of Memory. Since the 20th century, monuments role has been drastically changed. The criterion for their formation is not the simple representation of events of the past, but the visitor’s transformation from a mere spectator to a shareholder, with the ultimate goal of perceiving an experience. Such an experiential space causes the visitor an explosion of emotions thanks to the architectural tricks he uses, thus changing the atmosphere of the space.

Such a typical example of a monument is Auschwitz in Poland, one of the largest concentration and extermination camps of World War II. Today, it stands there as a place of remembrance to pay tribute to the 1.1 million people whose lives were lost in it. It is divided into Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau and Auschwitz III- Monowitz and includes numerous rectangular brick buildings in which prisoners lived and suffered for years, the so-called Blocks.

In the case of Auschwitz, no architectural tricks have been used to evoke emotions in the visitor, as the space alone is sufficient for this purpose. Its spaces remain for the most part the same as 75 years ago, places particularly stigmatized by history in which intense memories are recalled, with the emotional charge caused being overwhelming. The work of memory concerns the past, but invades the present, through the re-reading of the past and becomes the starting point for future self-reflections. The space may have been drained of human presence, but the traces of these people remain noticeable no matter how many years pass.

Time inevitably alienates us from the history of Auschwitz. But memory is always a battle with time.