Mini journal logo  Home Issue Contents All Issues

Should We Adopt a Pragmatic Approach to Holocaust Heritage in the 21st Century?

Gilly Carr

Cite this as: Carr, G. 2024 Should We Adopt a Pragmatic Approach to Holocaust Heritage in the 21st Century?, Internet Archaeology 66.


This essay proposes that a pragmatic approach be taken towards Holocaust heritage in the 21st century and beyond. Its point of departure is the recognition that it is now nearly 80 years since the end of the war and we are not making heritage decisions today about such sites based on inheriting them 'untouched' in 1945 and dictating their future role as sites of education, remembrance and pilgrimage. Rather, in acknowledgement that many decades have passed and that buildings from many sites of Holocaust heritage have been put to other uses, I argue that a pragmatic solution is required rather than an insistence that Holocaust heritage must have no function today other than one based solely on remembrance and memorialisation. This essay discusses whether we should be prepared to accept compromises and give up idealistic perceptions of a single 'right' solution that dictates the heritage futures of such sites. The research for this discussion is based upon the 2019-24 International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) project Safeguarding Sites, chaired by the author. This essay thus prizes an approach that safeguards Holocaust sites, but questions what we mean by 'safeguarding', arguing that Holocaust heritage is not like the archaeological site of Pompeii; we have not inherited it untouched and preserved in volcanic ash, nor have we had ownership of it continuously since the end of the war.

  • Google Scholar
  • Keywords: archaeology, Holocaust heritage, memorialisation, authenticity, preservation, community engagement, climate change
  • Accepted: 31 Oct 2023. Published: 21 March 2024
  • Funding: The publication of this article is funded by the European Archaeological Council.
  • PDF download (main article text only)

Corresponding author: Gilly Carr
University of Cambridge

Full text

Figure 1: The Hall of Crosses, Risiera di San Sabba, Trieste (Image credit: G. Carr)

Figure 2: The elevator built in 2018 at Mauthausen memorial, Austria (Image credit: G. Carr)

Internet Archaeology is an open access journal based in the Department of Archaeology, University of York. Except where otherwise noted, content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY) Unported licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that attribution to the author(s), the title of the work, the Internet Archaeology journal and the relevant URL/DOI are given.

Terms and Conditions | Legal Statements | Privacy Policy | Cookies Policy | Citing Internet Archaeology

Internet Archaeology content is preserved for the long term with the Archaeology Data Service. Help sustain and support open access publication by donating to our Open Access Archaeology Fund.