Through our ground-breaking new galleries we will create an accessible, engaging narrative populated by the stories of real people from diverse communities. Above all, we will show that the Second World War was a moment when the world changed completely.
- IWM Director-General Diane Lees CBE, FMA, FRSA
Since 1917, IWM London has been collecting objects and stories revealing people’s experiences of war and preserving them for future generations. After re-opening our First World War Galleries and atrium in 2014, marking the centenary of the First World War, we have now launched the next phase in the transformation of IWM London - to significantly expand and update our Second World War and Holocaust Galleries, and create a learning suite across all three floors of the exhibition.
Opening in 2021, this £30.5 million project will make us the first museum in the world to physically and intellectually present the Holocaust narrative within the context of the Second World War. Major supporters to date include The Pears Foundation and The Garfield Weston Foundation, each of which have generously committed £5 million towards the project.
As the events of the Second World War and Holocaust pass from living memory and into history, our duty to preserve first hand memories, as well as objects and diverse histories, and to educate future generations has never been more pressing. We have to date secured 95% of our funding, and are actively seeking support from individuals, trusts, foundations and companies to secure the outstanding shortfall.
Why this work is so important
Despite over 25 years of Holocaust education, research led by University College London’s Centre for Holocaust Education* with over 9,500 secondary school students aged 11 to 18, revealed that their knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust was often based on inaccuracies and misconceptions.
*What do students know and understand about the Holocaust? Evidence from English secondary schools
(Stuart Foster, Alice Pettigrew, Andy Pearce, Rebecca Hale, Adrian Burgess, Paul Salmons, Ruth-Anne Lenga, 2014)
- 74% of students grossly overestimated the proportion of Jews in Germany during the 1930s by 15 to 30 times. (The pre-war Jewish population was less than 1%.)
- 68% were unaware of what ‘antisemitism’ meant, and their explanations often overlooked the distinctive racial dimensions of Nazi antisemitism.
- While the majority knew Jews were the primary victims of the Holocaust, most had little understanding of why they were persecuted and murdered.
- Over 50% believed that the Holocaust was solely attributable to Adolf Hitler. With age, students increasingly appreciated that the Nazis played a significant role in the Holocaust, but most saw them as an elite group loyal to Hitler rather than a political party that enjoyed significant support across the German population.
- A third massively underestimated the scale of the murder of Jewish people, with 10% appearing to believe that no more than 100,000 lives were lost
- Fewer than 10% recognised that the German people were complicit in, or responsible for, the persecution and mass murder of Jews and other victim groups.
- Very few appeared to know about the role played in the Holocaust by collaborating regimes, Axis allies or local populations across Europe.
- While 71% recognised that Auschwitz was connected to the Holocaust, only 15% associated camps like Treblinka and Bergen-Belsen with it.
- Many students did not have a chronological understanding of the Holocaust or understand its relationship to the Second World War.
New gallery concepts for IWM's future revealed
New gallery concepts for IWM's future revealed
With your support we will be able to:
- Significantly improve visitor knowledge and understanding of the Second World War and the Holocaust by dedicating a total of 3,415m² within our flagship branch to these events, and providing a comprehensive interpretative journey throughout.
- Dedicate 1,200m² back-of-house space, not currently available to the public, to the Second World War and the Holocaust.
- Create 508m² of new expanded learning spaces, from which to offer creative and dynamic learning experiences.
- Make over 1,500 assets from the national Second World War and Holocaust collection available to the public, and increase digital content in these galleries by 50%.
- Articulate the Holocaust spatially and intellectually within the context of the Second World War, thereby enabling audiences to truly reflect on and understand the critical relationship between these events.
- Increase the number of young people participating in learning programmes by 90%, to 40,000 per annum, and double the number engaged in learning about the Holocaust to 50,000 per annum.
- Consolidate partnerships with institutions like UCL to ensure the latest research on the Second World War and the Holocaust is made widely available to the public in our galleries and online.
- Use the experience and success of transforming our First World War Galleries to engage contemporary audiences and future generations with the Second World War and the Holocaust, and demonstrate how the legacy of these events laid the foundations of the world we live in today.