These museums will take you on a historical journey around the most significant and disgraceful events of the not so distant past. Established to retain what mustn’t be forgotten and to serve as a warning to future generations, these places are memorials of the most terrible genocides committed in the 20th century.
Terror Haza (House of Terror). Hungary.
The museum located in Budapest, the capital of Hungary, embraces two bloody periods of Hungarian history. It is a memorial to the victims of fascist and communist regimes that were detained, tortured and killed in the building in the 20th century.
The exhibitions touch upon the nation’s relationships to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The musuem also displays exhibits related to the fascist Hungarian organisations such as ACP and the communist AVH (similar to KGB). The basement of the building contains examples of cells used by AVH to torture its prisoners.
More information: www.terrorhaza.hu
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Cambodia.
This is a place not to be missed while in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is located in a former school which was transformed into Security Prison 21 (S-21) during the Khmer Rouge regime, the followers of the totalitarian communist party led by Pol Pot. Surrounded by barbed wire and filled with torture chambers, the building served as a prison and interrogation center between 1975 and 1979.
At least 17,000 people were imprisoned at Toul Sleng, although the real number of its prisoners is unknown. Out of an estimated 17,000, there were only twelve known survivors. In total, the number of genocide victims under the Khmer Rouge regime is estimated at between 1.4 and 2.2 million people.
More information: www.toulsleng.com
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Poland.
Auschwitz, the concentration camp located in Oswiecim, a town in the southern part of Poland, has become a symbol of the Holocaust, terror and genocide during the World War II. At that time the Nazis were setting up such concentration camps throughout Europe, but since 1942 Auschwitz has been known as the largest death camp in the world’s history.
Around 40 camps and sub-camps made up the Auschwitz complex, of which the largest was Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the extermination camp. Today the museum covers 191 hectares where visitors can see 16 one-story buildings that served as the administrative centre for the complex, gas chambers, standing cells, dark cells, long lines of barracks in Birkenau and many other exhibits – the evidence of Nazis’ unspeakable crimes. It is estimated that between 1.5 and 4 million people were killed in Auschwitz.
More information: en.auschwitz.org.pl
Apartheid Museum. South Africa.
While visiting the Apartheid Museum you can literally feel as if you were in the heat of the racial segregation enforced by the South African National Party between 1948 and 1994 in South Africa. In accordance with the apartheid law, people were placed in one of four groups: native, colored, Asian or white. Therefore, visitors to the museum are classified as either white or non-white and permitted entry to the museum only through the gate allocated to their race group.
This powerful museum is an obligatory stop while in Johannesburg. The symbolic exhibits display countless pieces of evidence such as documents on racial divides, large photographs, list of apartheid laws, images of life under apartheid. The cages and nooses remain of those who were executed as political opponents. One of the museum’s spaces contains a glass case with post-apartheid Constitution and pile of pebbles on the floor. Visitors can place their own pebble on the pile in order to express their solidarity with the victims of apartheid.
More information: www.apartheidmuseum.org
Murambi Genocide Memorial Centre. Rwanda.
Around 20% of the total population of Rwanda (between 500,000 and 1 million people) was killed in the genocide of 1994. The Murambi Technical School, in southern Rwanda, is one of the memorial sites of the massacre of Tutsi, one of three native peoples
of the country, committed by Hutu, another ethnic group of Rwanda.
Faced with the killings, Tutsi wanted to hide at the local church but the bishop and the mayor lured them into a trap by sending them to the school. Some 65,000 people ran to the building were they were attacked by Hutu militiamen. Around 45,000 Tutsi were killed at the school, and almost all of those who managed to escape where murdered the next day. Today the school – now the Murambi Genocide Memorial Centre – exhibits the skeletons and mummified bodies of the thousands of Tutsi killed there in April 1994.
More information: www.museum.gov.rw
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Japan.
At 8.15am on August 6, 1945, the USA dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, one of the largest cities in Japan. It went down in history as the first city to have been destroyed by a nuclear weapon that killed around 80,000 people, and caused the deaths of another 60,000 several months after the bombing, due to injury and radiation. Around 70% of the buildings were completely destroyed.
Today, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum reminds of this terrible event and serves as the world’s peace centre. The exhibits cover the role of the city in the war, information about the bombing and its effects with many memorabilia and pictures. The museum is a part of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park that comprises several museums, monuments, and holds annual ceremonies to console the victims of the atomic bombings.