A major exhibition on Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp in Poland, and the horrors of the Holocaust is now open in Boston.

The exhibition, “Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” tells the story of the more than one million people who were murdered there during World War II through some 700 original artifacts.

From concrete posts used to fence in the camp, to a gas mask used by SS garrison members, to the personal items of prisoners including clothing, journals, suitcases and more — the items on display reflect the horrors inflicted and offer insights into the personal lives of those who suffered and died at the camp.

Striped prisoner uniforms are displayed in an exhibition.
JOSE BAREA Courtesy of Musealia

The artifacts are on loan from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial, Yad Vashem, The Anne Frank House and the New York Museum of Jewish Heritage, along with more than 15 other international museums.

The exhibition lays out the history of Nazi persecution of Jewish people, Romani people, gay men and other groups, and the actions that led to the creation of the death camp of Auschwitz. Videos of survivors’ testimonies are also shared throughout the exhibit.

Chief curator and Auschwitz historian Robert Jan van Pelt said it's important that current and future generations remember the atrocities of the Holocaust so that history is not repeated.

“This should not have happened,” he said. “It is something so totally unacceptable to basically put people who are living totally fine lives, put them in freight wagons and take them over half a continent and then at the end of it to just put them in a gas chamber and burn their remains.

“There is no way that we can ever, ever allow ourselves to be at peace with this piece of our history. There is not a single justification that can be given for that,” Jan van Pelt added. “And that, I think, is important to show to people. There is an absolute here that has entered into history, and we cannot turn our backs to it.”

The exhibition will be on display at The Castle at Park Plaza for the next five months. Its Boston debut comes amid a concerning rise in antisemitic and bias incidents in Massachusetts.

A room with several glass display cases and people walking around. One case holds a blue striped prison uniform. Another holds a brown three story bunk bed.
At “Auschwitz. Not Long Ago. Not Far Away,” artifacts from the death camp like a prisoner's uniform and a three-tiered bunk bed are on display.
Haley Lerner/GBH News

At the exhibition, many attendees ended their visit in tears and said they were deeply affected by the artifacts and testimony they saw.

Pam Lucas of Auburn said the exhibition was the most moving experience she had ever been through.

“I don’t know how these people survived,” she said. “They're so strong. They never did anything wrong. They were all so innocent. This can’t happen to innocent people again, because of who you are or what you believe. You should never have to die.”

“There is no way that we can ever, ever allow ourselves to be at peace with this piece of our history.”
Robert Jan van Pelt, chief curator and Auschwitz historian

Stephen Bynum, who is visiting Boston from Lampasas, Texas, said exhibitions like this are important because people need to see and believe what happened at Auschwitz — especially as there are people out there who deny its existence.

“You can’t walk through something like this without being touched by it,” he said. “It’s such a human tragedy on such a grand scale that it has to affect you psychologically, just to see what these people went through and their courage to survive it. It’s good that it's here for people to come see it.”

A brown child's shoe on display, with a sock sticking out of it.
A child's shoe, with a sock sticking out of it, taken from the Auschwitz death camp from 1944.
Haley Lerner/GBH News

Bynum was particularly touched by one artifact: a child’s shoe with a sock still sticking out of it, taken from a child at the camp who was most likely sent to their death.

“I have a grandchild that has a shoe about that size and she takes her shoes off all the time,” he said. “It’s a fun thing for us, because she’s taking her shoe off. But then when you see a shoe like that that’s taken off under those circumstances, it’s completely different.”

Nicolas Blaisdell, a world history teacher at CityLab Innovation High School in Revere, is currently teaching his 10th grade class about the Holocaust.

He and his fellow teachers brought students to the exhibition so they could see the real artifacts behind the history they are learning, and see how discrimination can cause such atrocities to happen.

“All of us had really emotional experiences today, and I saw students tearing up. I was tearing up, colleagues were crying,” he said. “But I think it was important for all of us to really have that emotional impact to really internalize the messages we've been learning and talking about in school. This is the end result of discrimination, this is where it takes us.”

11Exhibitioninterior_Yellow badge bearing the word .jpg
A picture of a yellow star used by the Nazis to identify Jewish people.
Courtesy of Musealia

Barbara Freeman of Bridgewater said she was glad to see a lot of children at the opening day of the exhibit.

“I think it’s sad that we have a lot of generations that have no idea that this happened,” she said, choked up with tears. “You can see I’m very emotional, but, you know, I’m not Jewish. But what’s going on in our country today scares me. Because this is all based on hate, and one person made people hate other people. And look what happened, you know? And the people that don’t think this happened, they’re the ones that need to be here to see this.”

Disclosure: GBH is one of the exhibition's local media partners.