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"La Shoah par Balles"

Touring Exhibition // Mémorial de la Shoah, Paris, FR // June 2007​

‘Between 1941 and 1944, nearly a million and half Ukrainian Jews assassinated following the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany. Only a minority of them was deported to death camps. The vast majority were systematically shot by Einsatzgruppen (mobile death squads on the eastern front), units of the Waffen-SS, the German police force or east-european collaborators. Since 2004, Father Patrick Desbois and the Yahad-In Unum association have undertaken a methodical research on this still little known aspect of the Holocaust; identifying and appraising all the exterminations sites of Jews perpetrated by the Nazi units in Ukraine during the Second World war. The exhibition organized by the Memorial of Shoah from June 20, 2007 until January 6, 2008 presents this work in progress, which, by reconstituting the processes of assassination, brings a better understanding of how the genocide of the Jews in eastern Europe was implemented. It becomes finally possible to preserve and respect the burial of the victims.’
Description of the exhibition, Memorial of the Shoah, Paris 2007.

The design of the exhibition is developed out of the synthesis of three concepts:
– Table elements serve as as supports for the dense documentation making up the exhibition. A horizontal datum is set up at a height encouraging the visitor to lean on or sit at the furniture.
– A characteristic of much of the evidence of the genocide is that it has been buried without trace. The photographs of Guillaume Ribot present an idyllic, rolling landscape, beneath which the past lies hidden. The exhibition reinterprets the horizontality, the articulated landscape, and the recurrent burying of traces in its form.
– The exhibition is punctuated with large vertical screens together with exhibition boards set behind the tables. Projections and panels, the interpretative material, are all dealt with as steel-framed vertical screens. Where these meet the tables, table-horizon and projection-screen are separated from each other, creating a play of shadows.

The first space presents the historical context of the Jewish community in Ukraine and the events leading up to the genocide, combining this with Guillaume Ribot’s photographs of the execution sites. The articulated horizontality of the tables picks up the motif of the horizon as a metaphor for the presentation of artefacts and documentary material on the tables. Backlit maps, showcases and fixed ring bound archives are integrated in this ‘landscape’.

The second space deals with the organisation and stages of the genocide itself, contemporary photographic documents (projected), witness testimony (video) and excavated artefacts (weapons and shells). The organisational stages of the genocide are documented in archival and interpretative material on table/screen elements, related each to a video module with witness testimony. The video modules are designed as abstract, slightly anthropomorphic furniture, with the faces of witnesses in a one-to-one relationship at eye level with the seated observer. At one end of the space, recovered buried weapons testifying to the genocide are exhibited on tables.

Slide 9
The final space deals with questions of memory and legacy. The testimony of survivors and witnesses is juxtaposed with documentation of a mass grave excavation. The space is divided into two: in the first, on a sober table/screen element, the excavation of the mass grave at Busk is documented. The vertical panels act as a paravent, separating off a darker space with 4 large format video modules, where witnesses describe the events, each with a small audience in 4 quorums.


Client: Mémorial de la Shoah, Paris // Collaborators: Natascha Nisic (conception scenography), Angelique Verbeeck (collaborator scenography), Takavoir (graphic design) // Services: Design, execution drawings and site supervision of exhibition architecture // Budget: 180.000,00 € // Photography: © Emmanuel Labard, Takavoir unless otherwise stated.