New Exhibit Focuses on the Architects of Nazi Gas Chambers
Wandering through Florence’s Piazza del Duomo, Sydney’s Circular Quay, or Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia neighborhood, it’s easy to mistake architecture for a form that describes ethics as well as beauty. One almost can’t help but feel small and incomplete in the presence of such awe-inspiring spaces.
But visitors won’t make that error as they walk through the Royal Ontario Museum’s “The Evidence Room” (through Jan. 28), which examines the aesthetic design of Nazi concentration camps. They represent, as a wall text notes, “the greatest crime committed by architects.”
In the main gallery, all the objects are painted white — these models and casts depicting a gas column and a hatch and a door from Auschwitz. Dozens of other casts depict everything from blueprints to contracting bills.
One doesn’t typically think of German contractors actually billing their hours for building the gas chambers, and the mundane details of it all amplify the grotesque horror of it.
“There is no Hippocratic Oath that architects ever take, as doctors do, to ‘do no harm,’” Gavriel Rosenfeld, a Fairfield University history professor who studies Nazi German history and memory, said. “Architects are notorious for being willing to work for any and all political regimes, no matter what their coloration.”
“I’d work for the devil himself,” renowned American architect Philip Johnson famously said.