Diane Lees: “Hello and thank you for joining us for a preview of Imperial War Museum's new Second World War Galleries and The Holocaust Galleries. As the UK’s leading authority on the public understanding of war and conflict and custodian of the national collection for the Holocaust, we at IWM have used our world-renowned insights and expertise to create new Second World War Galleries and Holocaust Galleries at IWM London. The Second World War and the Holocaust will soon pass out of living memory, leaving us without the first-hand testimony of veterans, eyewitnesses, and survivors. Our new galleries will preserve their stories and ensure that we never forget what they experienced. These galleries, which have been six years in the making, bring unseen objects, untold stories, and unheard voices together. They use the most up-to-date research and technology to help visitors understand the most devastating conflicts in human history and also the genocide that became known as the Holocaust.

Three times the size of IWM’s award-winning First World War Galleries and spanning two floors at IWM London, this 30.5 million pound project was made possible largely thanks to the generosity of private philanthropy, trusts and foundations, donations, a public fundraising campaign, support from our members and lottery funding. These galleries will enable our visitors to see and understand the Second World War and Holocaust together and in context, as IWM becomes the first and only museum in the world to house connected Second World War Galleries and Holocaust Galleries under the same roof.”

Vikki Hawkins: “The Second World War was the pivotal moment of the 20th century and the war with which every visitor to IWM will have a personal connection. Our new Second World War Galleries continue the story begun by our First World War Galleries and explain why only two decades later the world was facing a second global conflict.”

Kate Clements: “Surveys have shown that public knowledge and understanding of the war is patchy. People are often unaware of its truly global nature or how its social, economic and political consequences shaped our modern world. we worked with leading historians and academics to shape the narrative and content of the Second World War Galleries and embedded learnings from a range of visitor and stakeholder workshops in their design and interpretation.”

Vikki Hawkins: “The Second World War was a global conflict on an unprecedented scale, the like of which has never been seen since. Its impact was devastating, fighting took place on land, in the air and across and beneath the sea, which resulted in unparalleled levels of killing, suffering, violence, separation and loss and made no distinction between civilians and soldiers. When Britain went to war, so did its Empire. Britain drew heavily on its Empire's people and resources. With more than 1,500 objects and personal stories from over 80 countries, the new galleries highlight the vastly different experiences of those affected.”

Kate Clements: “The War’s events, big and small connected distant places and communities around the world. From Tokyo to Valletta, Mombasa to New York, Rangoon to Warsaw, lines of connection stretched across and around the globe. New international objects and stories that we have acquired for the galleries underline this global story bringing together items from places including China, India, Brazil, the US, New Zealand and Italy.”

James Bulgin: “The Holocaust has become one of the most intensively researched periods in history but analysis that we have conducted suggests that levels of public knowledge and understanding have not kept pace with this academic work. These galleries seek to close that gap. They reveal how a modern state in the heart of Europe became responsible for the genocidal murder of millions of men, women, and children. They show that it was not industrial systems and procedures that killed people but men and women participating in brutal and ruthless face-to-face killing. Most importantly they ask visitors to reflect on how this has changed the way that we think about ourselves and what we're capable of.

We have worked with experts and organisations across the world to develop our Holocaust Galleries. They incorporate the most up-to-date research and evaluation including archive material only available since the end of the Cold War such as records of mass shootings by SS and German Police Units in eastern European countries and reflect the latest developments in Holocaust education, academia and understanding. Individual stories from some of the Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust are told through over 2000 photos, books, artworks and letters and personal objects ranging from jewellery and clothing to toys and musical instruments.

Six million people were not murdered in the dark nor do they live in it. IWM’s new Holocaust Galleries are bright spaces that will shine a much-needed light on the horrors of the Holocaust. They use contemporary footage of sites across Europe bearing the traces of the Holocaust to help visitors understand that these things happened in our world.”

Diane Lees: “To support our visitors in understanding how the conflicts shape the world we all live in today, we have built learning and event suites which will enable our visitors to explore this defining period of the 20th century beyond the galleries, making use of new learning resources and programmes.

Our new Holocaust Learning Programme will support students to engage sensitively with this incredibly difficult history. Through our Second World War and Holocaust Partnership Program we are working with cultural partners across the UK to explore local Second World War and Holocaust collections within that national context.

Thank you so much for joining us for this virtual preview. We look forward to welcoming you to IWM London and to our new galleries soon.”

Our new Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries are now open to the public.

These Galleries have been nearly six years in the making. 3000 square metres and spanning two floors at IWM London, they provide a truly global narrative.

With more than 3,500 items and personal stories from over 80 countries, the Galleries continue the story started by our First World War Galleries, and will explain to visitors how, only two decades later, the world was facing a second global conflict and a genocide which would claim the lives of millions of people.

Watch this video for a virtual introduction to our new Galleries from Director-General Di Lees, with insights into their development and approach from Curators James Bulgin, Vikki Hawkins and Kate Clements.

We hope to welcome you to IWM London and to our new Galleries soon.

“it is a stimulating, sensitive and humane exhibition- one that is needed more now, perhaps, than ever.” – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian


“...both galleries are exceptionally well curated.” – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times


“Everyone should see them. Nobody could be unmoved by them and all will benefit.” - Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday


“The Holocaust Gallery is a tremendous achievement.” – Laurence Rees, The Daily Telegraph

More from IWM

  • Holocaust Learning Programme
    © IWM

    Holocaust Learning sessions for schools



    Why do we study the Holocaust? Why and how did it happen?

    IWM's Holocaust learning session will introduce these questions and support students' enquiry through our new Holocaust galleries.

    Students will use innovative digital technology, have facilitated discussion with IWM experts, and interact with museum objects and stories to learn about this difficult history. 

  • Cover of Total War, a book from IWM

    Total War



    Written by curators Kate Clements, Paul Cornish and Vikki Hawkins, curators of the Second World War Galleries. 


    Total War is an illustrated account of the most pivotal historical episode of the 20th century: the Second World War.


    This authoritative, immersive account of a conflict that forever reshaped the geopolitical landscape is told not only through compelling photographs of wartime events and detailed maps, but also through a series of artefacts that convey the real-life stories of those involved, from Europe, Asia, the United States and beyond.

  • Cover of The Holocaust, a book by James Bulgin

    The Holocaust



    Written by James Bulgin, who led the curation of IWM’s new The Holocaust Galleries. 


    Based on IWM’s ground-breaking new Second World War and Holocaust Galleries, this publication examines the development of the Holocaust as it appeared to those who witnessed it.


    It includes the items that they used, cherished and – in some cases – hid, to ensure that their experiences are meaningfully remembered.


    By telling the story of the Holocaust through objects and their owners, the book highlights the devastating human cost of the genocide and helps readers to understand one of the darkest periods in modern history.

  • L. S. Lowry Painting: Factory workers going to work at the Mather & Platt, Manchester, in the white industrial haze.
    © IWM Art.IWM ART LD 3074

    Second World War and Holocaust Partnership Programme



    Alongside the opening of new Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries, IWM’s Second World War and Holocaust Partnership Programme (SWWHPP) will support eight cultural heritage partners across the UK to engage with new audiences and share hidden or lesser-known, local stories related to these histories.