Top: the memorial at the former Treblinka extermination camp
Bottom: a rose-shaped brooch found near the old gas chambers during archaeological excavations. © Staffordshire University

Update (1/9/16): Congratulations to ‘Finding Treblinka’ co-curator Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls for winning the European Archaeological Heritage Prize, awarded by the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) on 31 August 2016. Read more on the Staffordshire University’s Centre of Archaeology website.

The Wiener Library’s current temporary exhibition explores the Nazi labour and extermination camps of Treblinka using the ground-breaking research of Staffordshire University archaeologist Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls and in artistic responses to the topic curated by Michael Branthwaite.

Between 800,000 and 1 million Jews, Poles and Roma from across Europe were killed during the Holocaust in the Nazi labour and extermination camps at Treblinka. Yet, the history of both camps is not well known. Few are aware of the scale of the killings that took place at the sites or the complexity and diversity of the camps’ architecture. The very few survivors and the almost total destruction of the camp by the Nazis have left a scant historical record.

Since 2007, a team of forensic archaeologists, led by Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls, have investigated the sites of both the former Treblinka extermination and labour camps. Through the team’s unique, predominantly non-invasive approach, a more accurate picture of the camps has emerged. At the same time, religious and ethical considerations surrounding their investigation have been respected. This work allowed the old gas chambers, mass graves and a large number of objects to be located. Sturdy Colls’ forensic archaeological research is therefore one of the best ways to reconstruct the events that occurred at Treblinka.

Now, for the first time in the UK, this archaeological work has been adapted and displayed at the Wiener Library, in cooperation with Caroline Sturdy Colls and Michael Branthwaite. The exhibition features specially commissioned artworks by Michael Branthwaite, Janine Goldsworthy, Dave Griffiths, Hilary Jack and Jenny Steele.

The innovative exhibition includes highlights from the Library’s collections, such as a contemporary map of Treblinka, Nazi documentation and testimony from survivors. It examines the history and architecture of the camps and the forensic archaeological process that helped reveal the camp’s history. The exhibition also explores the application of art as a means to provide access to scientific and historic data.

The co-curators hope that the exhibition will spark discussions about the ways in which we relate to the past, and demonstrate the new insights that archaeological and artistic approaches can provide about Holocaust landscapes.

The exhibition is open to the public for free during our regular opening hours, and will run until the end of September.