Date of Degree

2-2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Art History

Advisor

Harriet Senie

Committee Members

Marta Gutman

Benjamin Hett

Michael Berkowitz

Subject Categories

Architectural History and Criticism | Contemporary Art | Holocaust and Genocide Studies

Keywords

memorials, Holocaust, Britain, gardens

Abstract

The quantity of Holocaust memorials in Britain and their prominence in public debates beseeches the question: Why does a country with a modest Jewish population, that was neither occupied by the Nazis nor lost its citizens in the horrors of the Holocaust, devote large quantities of resources and time to memorializing the events of the Holocaust? While there are private and synagogue-based Holocaust memorials in Britain, this dissertation centers on Britain’s statefunded Holocaust memorials and museums, a substantial network of memorials that is often left out of the abundant literature on Holocaust memory. Each memorial project is examined through the lens of contemporary politics to understand how political considerations informed the content, design, and sites of these memorials. I argue that Britain builds its Holocaust memorials and museums to project an image of itself aligning with liberal, democratic, and tolerant values and characterize Britain as opposed to fascism. Yet, as each chapter in this study examines specific memorial projects, what develops is a picture of a country neglecting to address its own legacy (including that of imperialism, the Atlantic slave trade, and contemporary racism), so that any intended message of tolerance or anti-racism appears vacuous. This dissertation provides a nuanced understanding of the major Holocaust commemorative projects established by the British government between 1979 until the present, v including the Hyde Park Holocaust Memorial Garden (Richard Seifert), the Imperial War Museum’s Holocaust Exhibition (London, opened 2000), and the UK Holocaust Memorial and Education Centre (David Adjaye and Ron Arad, Victoria Tower Gardens, expected completion 2022). In addition to the memorials funded at the state level, this study looks at the typology of Holocaust memorial gardens that are found across the country, whether established by the State or by local town and county councils. By analyzing these diverse memorial typologies in one study, museums, gardens and monuments, it becomes clear that each memorial project reflects contemporary notions of “Britishness” rather than memorializing and teaching the Holocaust. By establishing how these memorials’ designs are mitigated by contemporary political concerns, I construct a history around these memorials that demonstrates how they reflect contemporary Britishness, anti-racism and British Holocaust consciousness.

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