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Holocaust Hell Revisited

May 16, 1993

As a practicing architect of Yugoslavian descent, I found Joseph Giovannini's article about the new Holocaust Museum ("The Architecture of Death," April 18) both ironic and provocative. Architect James Freed, himself a Holocaust refugee, has, re-created the experience of Dachau and Buchenwald for modern visitors.

However, by adopting such a literal approach, he has missed an opportunity to address a more universal statement against racism and genocide. Unlike the Vietnam War Memorial, which, by its strong iconic presence, speaks symbolically against all wars, the Holocaust Museum seems to freeze in time the experience of the death camps and becomes more of a time capsule than a true museum. Assigning visitors identities consistent with concentration camp counterparts, controlling their movements and then revealing the fates of their ghostly counterparts tends to trivialize the historical events by reducing them to macabre Disney-like E-ticket experiences.

Perhaps a more detached, less literal approach might have produced a subtle, yet more powerful statement about the dangers of a Holocaust recurrence.

CHRISTOPHER RESTAK

Santa Monica

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